A record number of active members and veterans of the military took advantage of grants from the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation in 2012, enabling them to become first-time homebuyers.
The foundation's Dream Makers Program provided grants totaling $823,000 in 2012, up from $453,000 in 2011, according to Kate Kohler, chief operating officer for the foundation and former Army captain. The grants assist homebuyers with the closing costs and down payments associated with buying a home.
Kohler attributed the rise in grant requests to word of mouth from brokers and within the military community. The foundation, which relies on donations from the private sector, has doubled its revenue in the past three years, she says, enabling it to fulfill the grant requests. "We're very proud of that because we've been successful in a challenging economic environment," she adds. "But this idea of giving people their first home has really resonated with donors and with the community."
All who apply and meet the requirements will receive a grant, according to Kohler. To qualify, military members or veterans must be first-time homebuyers or have lost a home through divorce or disaster and be below certain income limits, among other requirements. They must also attend a homebuying education seminar. "We are a national charity that provides grants and loans, but our mission is to provide financial literacy," Kohler explains.
Kohler says the Dream Makers program helps to solve homeownership challenges specific to those in the military. For example, she says, they might have enough cash flow to meet the monthly mortgage payments, but haven't saved enough for a down payment. Or, because they've been deployed for short periods around the world, they’re paying rent instead of building up equity through homeownership.
"The costs of buying a home are often barriers to the military members who are not compensated well," she says. "The grant lowers that hurdle."
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