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Becoming a homeowner through FSS

In January 2021, Marta Tillet pulled a moving truck up to her apartment at Hillside Village in Providence, Rhode Island. The day had arrived when she and her family would be moving into a home Marta had bought in nearby Cranston.

It was less than five years earlier that Marta and her three children had moved into Hillside, an affordable housing development owned and managed by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH). The opportunity to move to Hillside had come “just in time,” Marta says, as she was in the process of a challenging divorce and, as she describes it, “desperately looking for someplace to move.”

One of the first things Marta did after she moved in was enroll in the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program that POAH operates in partnership with Compass. She met Moriah, her first Compass financial coach, and they began to talk about Marta’s current situation and her dreams for the future.

“I worked really hard with Moriah,” Marta shared. “She was always there for me. We worked on my debt, how to save money, how to manage my money. She was always someone I could talk to, about what I was going through and my ideas, my dreams for the future. I called her my guardian angel.”

Marta’s big goal was to own her own home. While she was not working when she first enrolled in the FSS program, she was able to find work and start building savings in her FSS escrow savings account. All in all, Marta and her family would save over $20,000 in their FSS escrow account.

When Marta began the process of buying a home, she faced two major obstacles: lenders were concerned that she did not earn enough income to afford a home, and she was carrying a significant amount of student loan debt for her daughter – a common challenge for many families with low incomes, particularly families of color. Her daughter had had some difficulty keeping up with the loans. While the Compass team was able to provide her daughter with some support and guidance as well, the loans became a real challenge for Marta to get approved for a mortgage.

Marta was undeterred. Lender after lender told her that it would not be possible to approve her for a loan, but she did not give up. Eventually, Marta, her family, and her coach found a solution – she and her son, who was working and had good credit, would buy the house together. When he first started school, his mother’s financial coach had sat down with him to pull his own credit report and talk about how to establish and maintain good credit – guidance which he took to heart. Buying a home, which remains the most significant way to build assets in America, would be a family endeavor.

“I know it’s time to move on, and I cannot stay forever,” Marta said about her time at Hillside. “Everyone in this place really helped me. I’m a little sad to be moving, because it’s a nice place to live, with good neighbors, and I always knew my kids would be safe here. I have to just say thank you very much, and that I really thank God for what happened for me.”

While she’s sad to leave Hillside, Marta’s also excited about, and proud of, her new home. Her favorite part of the house is the enclosed porch, which she calls her “casita de cristal.” Marta says she often finds herself sitting out there, looking out over the yard where her grandson can play, and thinking to herself “wow, I have my own space.”

While reflecting on her experience over the past five years, Marta had these final words to share: “I’m a single mom with two kids in college. We can do it. If we work hard and focus on what we want, we can do it."

Marta in front of her home