Featured Profile: Virginia Watt
Virginia Watt never thought that she would realize the dream of homeownership. A native Chicagoan, Virginia has been working as a forklift operator with Graham Packaging for 33 years. She wanted to provide more space for her family, but wasn’t sure she could afford a home.
Thanks to Mercy Portfolio Services (MPS) and Chicago’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Virginia was able to make her dream a reality by purchasing a 2,250 square foot, 2-unit greystone for $145,000. Vacant, dilapidated and uninhabitable following a 2008 foreclosure, MPS acquired and rescued this property with the help of the Community Male Empowerment Project (CMEP), a local developer employing ex-offenders and hard-to-reach youth. MPS and CMEP restored the property through extensive repairs, created 20 jobs and helped stabilize the neighborhood.
The growing national foreclosure crisis threatens the social and economic fabric of thousands of communities and families. MPS is helping to address this crisis at multiple levels:
- Facilitating the acquisition, rehab and reoccupation of foreclosed homes in Chicago
- Providing technical assistance and a state-of-the-art software platforms to support national foreclosure remediation
- Preparing to launch a fund to help families save their homes from foreclosure
In 2010, as part of Chicago’s $169 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program, MPS acquired and began to work with developers to rehabilitate 413 units of foreclosed property in 22 neighborhoods. This work created more than 350 jobs, while protecting neighboring home values and restoring homeowner confidence. Ultimately, this program will help thousands of people like Virginia by acquiring and rehabilitating up to 2,500 units of foreclosed property.
To qualify to buy an NSP home, the buyer’s annual household income must be at or below 120 percent of the area median income. In addition, buyers are required to attend eight hours of home-buying classes. After completing all the requirements, Virginia was able to purchase a home for her family in the East Garfield Park neighborhood where she grew up.
“I never thought I could buy a home and look at me now,” said Virginia. “Everything was made available to me to make this dream a reality. I really appreciate the opportunity I was given.”