NAYA’s Homeownership Program makes home buying attainable

NAYA’s Homeownership Program makes home buying attainable

(Pictured above: Past participant Elisha Big Back, Northern Cheyenne, in front of her new house)  

As part of our efforts to build vibrant and sustainable Native communities in the Portland region, NAYA is closing the homeownership gap and turning dreams into reality through our Homeownership Program. 

Let’s face it, the first-time homebuyers’ journey can seem daunting and sometimes impossible to navigate without adequate resources, education, and support. NAYA’s Homeownership Program provides culturally specific coaching and programming that breaks down systemic barriers. According to Community Wealth Building Manager, Jennie Cirincione, Coquille, Native community members often have a difficult time seeing themselves as homeowners, especially for clients who have been historically marginalized by low income, stagnant wages, and lack of affordable housing. Providing the tools to navigate these complex systems is huge.  

Cirincione shares that because Native American homeownership significantly lags behind the national average, NAYA develops wealth-building vehicles that create economic opportunities designed specifically for our community. In the past two years alone, 64 clients purchased homes through NAYA’s Homeownership Program! This impressive achievement can be attributed in part to the continuum of wrap-around services that support clients on their homeownership journeys. “We really meet the client where they’re at and address natural barriers to homeownership like credit rating and lack of knowledge about the home buying process,” said Cirincione. “We make sure their home buying plan is tailored to them and what their needs are, because every person is different. There is no one way fits all. We just want to make sure everyone has what it takes to be successful.” 

Homeownership Coordinator Kevin Sheehan encourages first-time homebuyers to persevere and become their own best advocate.  “Our goal for participants is that when they complete the program, they are informed enough to make the right choices for themselves and their family. Whether they become a homeowner or realize it’s not for them, they know that they’ve made the right decision,” said Sheehan. “When participants are able to stand up for themselves as they talk to lenders and realtors, knowing exactly what they want and how to accomplish it, then our program has succeeded.” 

According to Sheehan, geographic areas with a high percentage of homeownership see higher levels of educational achievement and lower crime rates. Owning a home also helps families build generational wealth. While the homeownership process can be time-intensive, the results are nothing less than life-changing.  

Homeownership client Rayven Settler, Yakama, is one such story that is a testament to what dreaming, planning, and hard work can accomplish. Despite feeling disheartened by a system that is not set up for people like her, she was able to eventually purchase a home in Southeast Portland. This was a many years’ journey! NAYA professionals guided her every step of the way, providing emotional support, and financial coaching that gave her a sense of freedom. Read more about her story here

Are you interested in becoming a homeowner like Rayven and Elisha? Attend the 17th Annual NAYA Native American Housing to Homeownership Fair on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We’re excited to be back in-person at the NAYA campus and will also have virtual attendance as an option! Find out about basic home repair, financial wellness, foreclosure avoidance, renter’s rights, and much more. Join us to meet with lenders, real estate agents, and community partners to learn about resources and lending options. Registration is required.  

You can also contact the NAYA Homeownership team and fill out a program interest form here. Our dedicated staff are ready to assist you on your journey and provide the tools you need.  

“The biggest success to us is seeing more thriving Native homeowners. Clients identify the dream, and we just guide them along the way and work to make it happen,” stated Cirincione.