Housing success story: Assistance to home ownership

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Cassandra Aragon turns the key on the two-bedroom home she's getting ready to move into.

"The kids are so excited."

So is she. For good reason. It's a big moment in the life of her little family.

They'll soon be moving from their apartment--where they received a government voucher--to their own home, standing on their own, making plans only that kind of independence can give.

"It's little things like we want to paint. We want to put in a garden in the back yard and they want to get a dog. So it's things like that. People don't realize in an apartment you can't do things like that."

Home ownership is something that's supposedly moving beyond the reach of many American families, let alone those who've been on assistance.

Cassandra is a single mom, raising three kids. She'd often worked multiple jobs to make ends meet and still needed help with the rent.

But she learned about the Reno Housing Authority's Workforce Development program. It encourages people to pursue advancement at work and-- this is key--doesn't reduce their assistance as their income increases, which can be a disincentive. When she gets a raise--as she has--the extra money is set aside.

"The portion that we were paying with rent was also going into savings. And then at the end that program helps with the down payment on a house. Then there were classes that we had to take on paying bills, budgeting and stuff like that. That way you completed the program successfully."

"She was determined that she was going to build a better life for herself and her family," says the Housing Authority's Community Outreach Director Brent Boynton.. "And this gave her an opportunity to set aside some money that would be save in her name, so when the time came she could make a big move."

She admits the biggest step may have been the first--getting over the embarrassment of asking for help.

"Once you get over that hump of not being afraid to ask for help, it's just so great, the programs that are out there. And it's so nice to no longer need assistance and be on assistance and I think it's a great example for my kids also."

"It is a huge success for Cassandra," says Boynton. "and it's a success for us as well, not only because it opened up a possibility for someone else to have a voucher, but it shows my co-workers there's a reason we do what we do."

Boynton says the program could help many more. Unfortunately too few sign up.