Staying Local, Permanently

A couple of years ago I began looking to buy a place of my own. I first looked into lofts and homes with small square footage in nearby Albany. But, the prices in much of the Bay Area felt so out of reach.

I would work as many hours as my supervisors allowed but still there was no way I could afford it.

During this time, my parents ran into some hardships and I moved back home to help. While I spent time supporting my family I pushed the idea of homeownership even further back in my mind.

But when I allowed myself to dream about it, I couldn’t shake the question – what does home really mean to me?

To me, a home is a space where friends and family can freely gather with laughter and love audibly filling the room. It’s a place where you have reign to make of it what you wish. A place I wanted. And after college, I knew where I wanted to plant my roots: Richmond.

Richmond has been home since I was an infant. I am pretty well traveled, and still there is no place I’ve felt a stronger sense of belonging.

Having committed to a career as a teacher, I thought maybe it was time to make a plan. Then, at a Richmond City Council meeting, I learned about a social impact bond-funded program for first-time homebuyers.

Under the Richmond Community Foundation’s Housing Renovation Program, abandoned and blighted properties throughout the city are renovated with energy efficient materials and sold to first-time homebuyers like myself.

As I heard about the program I thought, for the first time, that maybe I could buy a home in the Bay now. That maybe I wouldn’t have to wait a decade.

A few weeks later, the West Contra Costa School District hosted a housing fair and I spoke with representatives from RCF about realizing my dream.

RCF is unique in that it allows first-time homebuyers to bypass the bidding process by connecting them with one of two local agencies, Sparkpoint or Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services.

Sparkpoint and RNHS provide financial and credit advice, HUD-certified homeownership lessons, access to grants and more.

This was it. This was my chance.

Yet, it wasn’t easy. There was the issue of paperwork – so much paperwork – then getting down payment assistance, closing cost, etc. There were several roadblocks along the way but we — my fiancé and I — were persistent. We persevered.

Of the 10 homes RCF was rebuilding, we chose the house that was the best fit for us and we got it.

Our new home is a three-bedroom house with a flushed ceiling, living and dining area. It has the nice green grass in the front that I imagined as a kid. I couldn’t be more content.

The location is great too. I am right across from my former elementary school, two blocks away from my parent’s house, and I’m still close to the school where I teach. My fiancé is now centrally located to the schools he reaches through his non-profit.

We get to live and build a family in the city I know and love. Granted, Richmond has its issues, but nothing that cannot be changed.

Richmond is where my heart lives. I get to grow and live out the lifelong relationships and friendships that I invested in growing up. I am so fortunate to be able to live so close to the areas that mean so much to me.

My hope is that one-day I get to see my students go through the same process with even greater ease.