For decades, the Lents Neighborhood - one of the oldest established communities in Portland - was looked down upon because the streets were lined with shabby homes in various stages of disrepair. Renters who lived there didn't care about the houses any more than the landlords did.
In 2005, a group of officials from government agencies, non-profit organizations, real estate agents, lenders and developers started the Lents Homeownership Initiative (LHI).
'The benefit of encouraging people to 'buy into' the neighborhood - instead of renting,' said Amie Diffenauer, LHI community organizer, 'is that once you start putting down your roots, you become more concerned about how your neighborhood looks; you're more concerned with crime and other neighborhood issues.'
In this situation, one takes more ownership in his or her neighborhood, literally and figuratively, Diffenauer added, 'because your assets are right there on the ground.'
Added 200 homeowners
Many initiatives are long on talk and short on action. But by working together, the LHI partners have already helped more than 200 families buy a home - usually it's their first house - in the neighborhood.
'We're helping dedicated, hard-working people of modest means get into nice, decent living spaces. These houses are real agreeable homes,' Diffenauer said.
One-stop home-buying help
Potential Lents Neighborhood homebuyers can take classes on building their credit, learning how to apply for a loan and mastering the home-buying process. Another way LHI reaches out to the community is through its annual springtime Home Buying Fair.
Although this year April 12 was a beautiful spring day - tempting for recreation and getting out of town - more than 550 people came to the third Lents Home Buying Fair, Diffenauer said after the event.
'The fair proves there are many people dreaming of owning their own home, and are willing to spend part of a beautiful day to get information on how to make this dream a reality,' he said.
In addition to the workshops and seminars - presented in five languages - held throughout the event, representatives from participating lenders, builders, mortgage and title companies and home insurance agents were on hand, making the fair a one-stop source for home-buying help.
SUN School partner
'The best thing about this event,' said Christine Rhoney, SUN site manager at Kelly Elementary School, host and partner in the event, 'is being able to bring people together.'
Rhoney said that their 'SUN School,' a school-oriented program of Portland Impact, 'works to help people become more successful. It's about providing information, education, and support to help people through different stages of life; to help get them where they want to go. We coordinate and co-host this event with LHI because it truly matches our mission.'
Says event is empowering
One of the participants, Jennifer Merrill-Sordelet, said her family is trying to buy a new home.
'I love the neighborhood. This area really is being revitalized.'
Showing the big stack of information she carried, Merrill-Sordelet said she appreciated the workshops on how to get a loan, down payment assistance and all the different opportunities for assistance with down payments.
'I really feel empowered,' Merrill-Sordelet said. 'I found out that I can qualify for one of the assistance programs. It's exciting to think how great it would be to buy a house instead of throwing money away on rent.'
500 burgers to go
After fueling renters' appetites to become homeowners, Burgerville grilled up burgers to feed the crowd.
'We're invested deeply in communities and schools,' said Joe Tharp, manager of Burgerville No. 41 at Southeast 92nd Avenue and Southeast Powell Boulevard. 'We partner with LHI as part of our community service. We're building lifelong relationships here in the community as well.'
Fulfilling the mission
'LHI is important to our overall mission,' said Nick Sauvie, executive director of ROSE Community Development, LHI's parent organization. 'ROSE stands for 'Revitalizing Outer South East.' '