The ultimate perk

Alexian Village workers become homeowners

Alexian Village of Milwaukee is providing perhaps the ultimate perk among southeastern Wisconsin employers — home ownership.
Employees at the continuing care retirement community on the city’s northwest side can join a program in which they receive counseling to clean up their credit history and become eligible for financing to buy three- or four-bedroom condominiums at reduced prices near their work site.
The employees are buying the condos in The Woodlands Condominiums. So far, 12 have Alexian Village employees have acquired condos, and about 10 others are in the process, according to Gary Mohn, chief executive officer of Alexian Village.
"The majority are not homeowners. We’re looking at a lot of single moms," Mohn said. "A lot of the employees haven’t dreamed of owning a home. There’s a sense that they have bad credit. The intent of the program is to say, ‘Yes, you can!’"
After receiving credit counseling, the Alexian workers receive $2,000 to $4,000 in loans that are forgiven when the employees continue to work at the complex for two years.
The financing is available through a federal pilot program, the first of its kind in the nation, in which a $1 million loan was obtained from the Fannie Mae program, in partnership with the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. (MGIC), Select Milwaukee Inc., the City of Milwaukee and St. Francis Bank.
Employers within the neighborhood of the former Northridge Mall, now known as Historic Granville, are encouraged to join the program and offer the benefit of first-time home ownership to their employees, Mohn said. The program is open to anyone as a catalyst to revive the former Northridge neighborhood.
Jawana Henry, 48, an activity specialist at Alexian, is a living testament to the impact of the program. She and her husband of 26 years had long ago dismissed the notion of ever buying a home.
Today, Henry, her husband and their 21-year-old son reside in a three-bedroom, 1-1/2-bath tri-level condo near 98th Street and Fond du Lac Avenue.
"My husband and I rented all of our lives. We just gave up on the idea of owning a home until they came along with this program," Henry said. "I have a back yard! It’s fenced in."
Tameka Davis, 23, a cook at Alexian, is receiving help to clean up her credit record and hopes to move into a condo with her 5-year-old son in the Woodlands development this summer.
"I didn’t think I made enough money to own a home," Davis said.
The Woodlands Condominiums are former apartment rental units. In the program, when the owners of apartments want to sell the units, they must sell them to participants in the program.
The units are then "gutted," with new carpeting and new appliances installed, said Michelle Washington, home sale facilitator for the Woodlands.
Finally, the completely refurbished condominiums are sold to participants in the program for $34,000 to $40,000, which covers the costs of converting the apartments into condos.
The mortgages are paid back over 15 years. Instead of paying $600 to $700 per month in apartment rental fees, the participants are paying less than $500 in mortgages and are building equity in a condominium.
"They are going to pay more in rent somewhere else," Mohn said. "It promotes the wellbeing of the community."

June 13, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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