SOUTH ST. LOUIS ( -- On the 5000 block of Idaho, contractors are hard at work rehabbing a two-bedroom home a first-time homebuyer.

“It’s like a dream come true,” said Danny Estrada, who moved his family of six into their first home last year. And it’s all thanks to St. Joseph’s Housing Initiative.

“Our mission is twofold, to stabilize neighborhoods and to stabilize families with homeownership. We are focused on vacant properties, long vacant properties,” said Marueen McCuen, the executive director of St. Joseph’s Housing Initiative.

The nonprofit buys vacant homes in south St. Louis and rehabs them to sell at an affordable price point. The idea stemmed from the Ferguson Commission which found in St. Louis City, 32 percent of black residents own their homes compared to 56% of white residents. The report pointed out black residents are denied home loans at more than twice the rate as white St. Louisians.

Since they started last year, the nonprofit has purchased seven homes all in the Dutchtown neighborhood. So far three families have moved into their first homes, including the Estrada family.

“You feel like you’re doing a big step, for your family, for my daughters, for my kids,” said Estrada.

SJHI is working in South City, an area that has seen an uptick in crime in recent years and is part of St. Louis’ Cure Violence program. The nonprofit hopes they can do their part by fixing up vacant, problem properties and working with neighbors to build a stronger community.

Through the help of volunteers and donations the homes are renovated with new windows, new plumbing, and so much more, things help ensure the new home buyer doesn’t face unexpected costs in their first years of homeownership.

SJHI offers a $5,000 down payment assistance in the form of a 5-year forgivable loan and requires homeowners to take educational workshops.

“Its really hard to buy a home, sometimes you just don’t know where to start,” recalls Estrada.

To qualify homeowners must be below a certain income level and plan to live in the home for at least five years.

If you would like to help SJHI, you can volunteer, donate materials or money to help fund their hopes of helping new homeowners. More info, click here.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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