“Don’t sell your house.”
That was my first thought when I heard Jessica’s story. Even though I’m in the business of helping people buy and sell homes, I want to promote a movement to help people stay in their homes.
I own a real-estate company in downtown Durham. Urban Durham Realty has flourished alongside the thriving Durham market. Over the last decade, we’ve watched home values climb dramatically. Many people, including those of us at UDR, have benefited from those gains. Other Durhamites, however, aren’t in a position to capitalize on these upward trends. Jessica is one of those people.
Jessica is a single mother with two children. The home where her family lives was passed down to her by her parents. Unfortunately, because her father was ill when he gave her the house, Jessica also inherited a myriad of deferred maintenance issues. She works full time and earns just enough to support her children and live paycheck to paycheck. With several unexpected repairs, Jessica found it impossible to afford the renovations on what might be her most important investment.
Jessica has gone to countless meetings and filled out stacks of paperwork seeking assistance, only to be told her repairs are too extensive to take on, or that she does not qualify for assistance since she is neither a senior citizen nor disabled. Her predicament is unresolved, but not due to a lack of effort on her part.
Many of our neighbors are struggling financially and are finding it difficult to afford to maintain their homes. It’s become increasingly common for aggressive investors to target these homeowners, offering to purchase their homes at prices well below market value. Sadly, the money earned from these sales often disappears quickly to make ends meet. Sellers are left stripped of their most-effective means of building wealth: their homes.
Since Urban Durham Realty opened its doors almost 10 years ago, we’ve centered our company around the concept of giving back, knowing that our success is only as strong as the community in which we’re based. Our business has always been about more than selling houses. Recently, the issue of affordable housing and all its related complexities have been part of an ongoing conversation at our weekly company meetings. Education and discussion are important, but they don’t mean much without action, so Urban Durham Realty has felt called to contribute to the solution in some way.
When Marcelle Thomas, one of our agents, approached me to ask if I thought we could help Jessica’s family, I immediately said yes. We had asked for the opportunity to contribute to the solution, and here it was. While the path over the last six months has been bumpy and imperfect (after all, we’re not in the home repair or construction businesses), we have strong relationships with vendors that have stepped up to help. We have been grateful that our partners and our community have genuinely wanted to help. I’m especially grateful for Rebuilding Together, a company on a mission to provide families with safe, healthy homes. Without them, we would likely still be trying to figure out what permits we needed to pull to realize Jessica’s dream of a secure and comfortable home.
Our goal with this project was to get involved at a granular level. We needed to see and understand this process from start to finish, and we’re almost there. We’re close to meeting our fundraising goal, and we’re close to getting Jessica and her kids back in their “new” home.
But this issue is far from resolved; in fact, this is just the beginning. I’m asking you to join us in this movement. It is a gift to our community and its beautifully diverse fabric to help those that want to remain homeowners stay in place. Join us, and organizations like Rebuilding Together and Preservation Durham’s Equity Project, to protect homeownership in Durham’s most-threatened neighborhoods.
Learn more about our efforts at https://www.urbandurhamgivesback.com/.