Two years ago, all Don Carberry wanted to do was clean up the bad credit he had acquired after a failed marriage and an affair with the bottle that lasted too long.
"One day I woke up and said this isn't working out," said Carberry, 62. "I was living out of my car."
After coming to his senses, the disabled veteran and survivor of three strokes did what he was supposed to do to re-establish his credit and his life.
"I wasn't really thinking about buying a house," he said. "I didn't think I could afford it."
But he soon learned that he could do just that through Faith Community Housing Foundation's new Home Ownership Program. Carberry was able to buy a new home built for low-income Fayette County residents. He bought the three-bedroom, two-bath house for $67,500 on June 29. It had appraised for $112,000.
His was the first home bought under the new program. The house was built for another potential owner who backed out a year ago after it was completed. It sat empty all that time.
"It is a brand-new house," Carberry said. "The last place I lived wasn't this large or this nice."
Grants of $20,000 from Kentucky Housing Corp. and $25,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank brought the home's mortgage down to an amount that Carberry could afford on his fixed income.
And, Ron Ides, executive director of Faith Community Housing, said the financial picture has gotten brighter for folks like Carberry. Kentucky Housing Corp. has doubled the amount of grants— from $20,000 to $40,000 — that first-time home buyers can receive.
That is money that can help potential homeowners fill the gap between their low income or their insufficient money for down payments and closing costs and their buying a home.
"With those kinds of ingredients and that kind of gap funding, I have to believe there are people out there who can take advantage of this, just like Donald," Ides said.
Carberry's mortgage payment is $481.62, and so far he has paid about $53 in utility bills on the all-electric home. He lives on Social Security and Veterans Administration disability payments.
Faith Community will build new energy-efficient, two- to four-bedroom houses for qualified buyers, with family incomes as low as 50 percent of the average median income, which would be $27,000 for a family of three.
Buyers must agree to live in the homes for 10 years and pay the mortgage on time.
Before the purchase, the buyers must go through financial literacy classes provided through REACH Inc., which partners with Faith Community to highlight household budgeting, banking basics, understanding credit reports, addressing delinquencies and understanding the responsibilities of home ownership.
Upon completion, the buyer can choose to go through the foundation's program and buy a new house built on one of a few lots the group owns in the downtown area or the Georgetown Street Non-Profit Development near New Circle Road.
The foundation then helps potential home buyers choose the sites and house plans and discusses the up-front money required, and special grants and programs available to them. The foundation also will connect buyers with lenders to complete the process. "We work in partnership with Central Bank & Trust and Kentucky Housing to ensure they get a low-interest loan," Ides said.
The foundation, a non-profit collaboration of 13 faith-based institutions in Lexington, also has houses for rent and rent-to-own houses.
After renting a small apartment for the past six years, Carberry couldn't be happier.
He said he spent about 18 months in the pre-purchase classes and decided only earlier this year to buy a house.
He lives on the first floor of his two-story house because navigating the stairs is difficult. And Carberry has put a bedroom set in layaway and hopes to buy a washer and dryer and a sofa when the government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers comes in.
For now, he needs only his chair, his bed and the television.
Ides wants others in Lexington to find affordable housing as well.
"For many low-income, first-time home buyers, the process of buying a home can be intimidating, if not impossible," he said. "In terms of direct service, FCHF along with REACH can help people think through how they can budget, save and get assistance to buy their own homes."
For information, call the foundation at (859) 270-7324, or go to www.faithcommunityhousing.org.