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 Article of Interest - Community Living/Housing

New program helps disabled buy homes
Special community partnership assists 2 local women with home ownership
by Geoff Larcom, Ann Arbor News, Tuesday, December 17, 2002
For more articles visit www.bridges4kids.org


Since her first year of life, Peg Ball has dealt with the effects of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a disease that has taken a level of control from her days and put her in a mechanized wheelchair.

But this holiday season brings a special form of freedom for Ball - her first home - bought with the help of a special community partnership involving local housing organizations, a lending company and a financial services group.

The new program is designed to help low-income families, including people with disabilities, buy homes in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area.

"I have dreamed of owning a home all of my life," said Ball, 45, who grew up in Detroit and moved to the area from Tucson, Ariz., two years ago.

Ball and another new home owner, Pamela Rathbun, told of their new residences at a news conference Monday at the Ypsilanti Marriott. The two were able to buy their homes through mortgage financing from the Northern Ohio Investment Co., which uses a flexible financing plan designed by Fannie Mae, a financial services company that is the nation's largest source for financing of home mortgages.

Along with representatives from the organizations and financial companies, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, Ypsilanti Mayor Pro-Tem Trudy Swanson and U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, attended the news conference.

"We need to have meaningful public-private partnerships in finding new and innovative ways to finance home ownership," Dingell said as he congratulated Ball and Rathbun. "A woman's home is her castle."

Rathbun received financial help and guidance from the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, as she navigated the steps needed to qualify for a mortgage. She also attended home ownership and counseling classes offered by Community Housing Alternatives of Ypsilanti, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities buy homes.

"I never thought this dream would come true," said Rathbun, 44, a clerical worker who suffers from epilepsy and has already moved into her condominium with her two cats, Kiki and Aphrodite.

Rathbun's father died when she was 6 years old. She moved to Michigan with her sister at age 16, living in Westland and then around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Now, she can celebrate her birthday on Christmas Eve in her own place.

"This will be the best birthday and Christmas present ever," she said.

Rathbun said she is savoring the simple freedoms of owning a home, such as looking out of her kitchen window, standing on her balcony and not going out to do laundry. "It just makes me so happy," she said. "I don't have to go out to get quarters."

Ball, who has worked for the Center for Independent Living for 20 years, now wants to work in real estate to help people in similar situations realize their dreams of home ownership. She said she wants to help others cut through red tape, as she did, and be able to piece the proper resources together.

"This is so exciting," said Ball, who plans to move into her home in January. "It feels like a major life goal has become a reality. I can finally set down roots."

Ball looks forward to a home set up according to her needs and those of her family and partner. "It's a responsibility," she said of owning a home, "but it is also a joy."

For more information, contact the Ann Arbor Housing Commission at (734) 994-2828.

Geoff Larcom can be reached at glarcom@annarbornews.com or at (734) 994-6838.
 

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