UKB Housing places four families into homes through Lease-Purchase program
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
LANGLEY - A home just in time for the holidays. It was a dream that at one point seemed impossibly far out of reach for the Legg family.
“We didn’t actually start packing until we were for sure that we got the house and then it was like all of a sudden everybody is trying to pack and move. We just didn’t want to jinx it,” said new homeowner Amber Legg.
The Leggs are one of four families in 2018 that were able to be placed into homes through the Lease-Purchase program with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians’ Housing Department.
“If it wasn’t for the program, we would still be stuck where we were at. It was a bad place to live,” said homeowner Kenneth Legg. “Without that program, we wouldn’t have this. We wouldn’t be moving up and our situation moving up instead of staying where we were at. It really helped us a lot.”
The Leggs officially moved into their home located in Langley in November 2018, just before Thanksgiving.
“We moved in the Monday before Thanksgiving. Everyone was here for Thanksgiving and we had room for everybody,” said Amber. “Now every night we do something. Whether it’s playing cards or eating dinner together at the table. It’s helped bring us closer. At the other place, we had a little table. We didn’t have room for anything.”
UKB Housing Occupancy Specialist Amanda Mink has worked with the Leggs throughout the process and said that the program has a point-based waiting list.
“We typically buy two to three houses per year and we do have a waiting list,” she said. “The Housing Committee changed the point system where an elder household, a veteran household or a disabled household are given preference first.”
In order to qualify for the Lease-Purchase program, applicants must be at least 18-years-old and an exclusive UKB member. Applicants must also be first-time homeowners and not have owned any real estate within the past three years.
The program requires families not exceed 80 percent of the income guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at the time of move-in.
“We have to verify the applicant’s information to make sure they are within the guidelines at the time of eligibility,” said Mink. “If that checks out, they can look at a home selected and take it or turn it down, depending on where its located.”
The property must be located within the tribe’s 14-county operating jurisdiction.
Applicants may reject the Housing Department offer up to two times. After the second time, the applicant will be moved to the bottom of the list. Families must take possession of the assigned unit within thirty days of the lease notice availability or forfeit their eligibility for that unit.
Mink said the Housing Department determines the monthly base lease payment off of the applicant’s adjusted gross income.
The payment is equal to 15 percent of the income except for elders, those that are nearly elderly or disabled, who pay up to 10 percent.
“The most their rent will be is the unit cost of the house divided by 300 payments,” said Mink. “That’s their maximum rent amount. If after 300 payments there is a balance owed, all is forgiven and the house is conveyed to them.”
The Housing Department will perform general maintenance, conduct semi-annual inspections and carry insurance costs on the housing unit for the length of the lease, after which the family must assume insurance costs.
For the Leggs, the excitement of having a house all to themselves still hasn’t worn off.
“We tell each other every night, ‘I can’t believe we got a new house.’ It is such an awesome, beautiful house,” said Kenneth. “If you’re on the list, be patient. (Housing) knows what they are doing. It just takes time.”
In 2018 the Housing Department also assisted the Morris, Whaler and Wildcat families with homes located throughout the 14-county UKB jurisdiction.
The program hopes to grow even more in 2019.
For more information about the UKB Lease-Purchase program, contact the UKB Housing Department at 918-871-2773.