Over the last four years, Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc., of Great Falls, Montana (Great Falls NHS) helped more families purchase homes than any other Neighborhood Housing Services organization, according to the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NRC).
During the 48-month period ending in June 2002, Great Falls NHS helped 1,199 families become homeowners. The figure represents the highest number of new homeowners created by any of the organizations in NRC's national Neighborworks® Network, including those serving large communities such as New York City and Chicago.
According to Nancy O'Brien, executive director of Great Falls NHS, partnerships are the key to the organization's success. "We accomplished this statewide, through a unique partnership with Montana's Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) offices," she says. Great Falls NHS trained staff members at seven Montana RC&D offices to provide homebuyer education and counseling in rural areas. The organization also trained representatives of the Missoula Housing Corporation and the City of Billings to conduct homebuyer education in urban markets, and the program will soon expand with the addition of an eighth RC&D office in Bozeman.
"The RC&Ds conduct homebuyer training in communities throughout the state. When families that complete the training are ready to purchase a home, they work with a local lender to secure financing. Then we provide a package of down-payment and closing-cost assistance and send it to the local lender, who closes the transaction," O'Brien explains.
High school students in Great Falls, Mont., put the finishing touches on two homes they constructed through a program sponsored by Great Falls NHS.
This arrangement with Montana's RC&Ds is an example of the partnerships that Great Falls NHS has developed with a variety of nonprofit organizations, private corporations and government entities in order to extend its services statewide. In the spring of 2002, those partnerships were formalized through the creation of the Montana HomeOwnership Network, Inc., an affiliate of Great Falls NHS that provides housing loans and homebuyer education in 55 of Montana's 56 counties.