Homeowner Stories: Meet Sandra

Published On: December 15th, 2023|Categories: Homeowner Stories|

This interview isn’t the only time Sandra has shared her CHT story recently. In fact, just a few weeks ago, she says she was “going on and on for a full ten minutes” telling one of her coworkers about the program and how she really should apply – and that’s when she found out her coworker’s sister works at CHT. She laughs and says that she loves sharing about the program because of how much it has meant to her family.

When she first found out about CHT, Sandra was a single mom of three boys who had been renting in the area for a few years. She was a teacher in Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, and her rent costs were increasing substantially. That’s when she applied to purchase a home through CHT, which she ultimately did in 2014.

Sandra’s three boys – now aged 20, 15, and 12 – have spent essentially their whole childhood in Montclair; in fact, her youngest two don’t remember having lived anywhere else. Sandra says that the best part about their house is the yard: “If you’re going to raise three boys, you’re going to need some space! I had a place where they could play safely when they had boundless energy.” In fact, Sandra’s yard has been the epicenter for all the neighborhood’s kids to play football and soccer over the years, and she says that the boys who used to live next door are as close to her sons as brothers. The location, too, has given them an incredible quality of life: with a bike path leading directly to Southern Village and Merritt’s Pasture very nearby, Sandra’s boys and their two dogs have had access to the best the area has to offer when it comes to the outdoors. And thanks to Chapel Hill’s excellent free public transit system, they even managed to live car-free for several years.

But while her home in Montclair has been a great place to raise her sons for almost ten years now, perhaps even more important is what Sandra’s home’s affordability has done for her family. She says that purchasing her home provided the immediate relief of stable housing costs, “but since then, in addition to providing continuity and stability and all that great stuff that homeownership can provide you” the ongoing affordability has allowed Sandra to make changes to better care for her family. First, a family member had some significant health issues, so she had to scale back work, and she says there’s no way she could have gotten through that reduction of income if she didn’t have an affordable mortgage.

“It also allowed me to be able to pull off leaving a career of 20 years in education to be able to go back to school to become a nurse! For sure I could not have done that if I was sitting on a mortgage where I was stretched beyond what’s really smart or realistic.” Sandra says she made the career change because she knew it would provide more financial stability for her family in the long run, even if it did mean a financial stretch in the short term. She has since finished her bachelor’s degree in nursing, and in May, she will graduate as a nurse practitioner. In her current work as a nurse, Sandra has many patients who are facing housing instability, and she sees the ripple effects throughout their family’s lives as a result. She says that her experience since buying her home has been the exact opposite: the benefits of having a stable, affordable home have rippled throughout her family’s life, too.

In the nearly ten years she’s been in her home, Sandra has had the support of CHT’s staff in keeping her home healthy and habitable as well. She has had three instances when she has been able to use funds from CHT’s Stewardship Program to complete essential home maintenance projects: replacing her hot water heater, painting the exterior of her home, and replacing her flooring. In the last case, she removed the carpeting in her home because of her son’s allergies – and while her 15 year old son did the flooring work himself, she was able to be reimbursed for the cost through the Stewardship Program.

To participate in the Stewardship Program, CHT homeowners pay a small monthly fee. These fees go into a pooled fund. Then, when a covered major home system repair or replacement is needed, CHT pays for that work on behalf of the homeowner from that fund. Our Property Manager, Ian Morse, sums up the Stewardship Program this way: “It’s a monthly investment for CHT’s homeowners. We want our homeowners to use it to ensure that they’re maintaining their homes well and being proactive about it. When homeowners are proactive about accessing the Stewardship Program for their home maintenance needs, that’s better for them and their house, and for the sustainability of the program.” For Sandra, it has been a huge help in keeping her home in great shape for all these years.

When Sandra graduates in May, her scholarship stipulates that she accept a job in a high-needs area. She doesn’t know yet whether that will mean she needs to move, but she hopes not. Sandra says that she felt like she won the lottery when she found out what house they were eligible for, and she encourages others who are considering applying to CHT to trust the process and give it a try, too. “For me, it didn’t all fall into place right away, it was more of a process that I needed to be patient with,” she explains, and she says that she had to be active in the process, following the advice of her housing counselor and seeing homeownership as a long-term goal she should stick with. She says that all the resources CHT was able to connect her with were a huge benefit, and she doesn’t even know the whole list of things she’s benefitted from. “It’s an amazing program, and I know what it’s meant for our family,” says Sandra. “I can only imagine what it means for all the families you help.”

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