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New Homeowners Thanks to MVI

Mon Valley Initiative classes helps couple into Swissvale dream house

This past September, a young couple began researching the best ways to improve their credit and purchase a home.  For them, a few hours of mouse clicking and web surfing paid off.  Eight months after first exploring the website of the Mon Valley Initiative, they’re moved into a four bedroom, fully renovated house on Manor Avenue in Swissvale.

“We were in a housing arrangement we really didn’t like and knew our credit needed work,” said Marieke Johnson, a social worker.  “It was rough, but now we own a house we can be proud of that’s costing us less each month than what we used to pay in rent.  We couldn’t be happier.”

Funded partly through grant monies received through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the MVI housing counseling program has helped more than 1,300 families become homeowners since 2005.  The Homestead non-profit conducts group presentations as well as individual counseling to promote home ownership.

It was the telephone call that Johnson and her partner, Richard Wertz, made after their last mouse click that connected them to MVI’s NeighborWorks® certified housing counselor, Mike Mauer.   “They were incredibly motivated,” said Mauer.  “We initially strategized an action plan that if they stuck to it and retired their past due debt and stabilized their expenses, they’d be able to qualify for a home mortgage within about 12 to 18 months.  Marieke and Richard actually had their mortgage pre-approval in hand five months and two weeks after we first met.  I was really impressed by their effort.”

In addition to the advice they received about how to improve their credit, the young couple also learned about real estate development programs that offer special incentives to low-to-moderate income buyers.  Marieke and Richard’s house on Manor Avenue is part of a neighborhood revitalization strategy funded by the HUD Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Swissvale that is being led through the efforts of SEDCO, MVI, Swissvale Borough, Allegheny County Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Manor Avenue house features a kitchen with an island, as well as a third floor master suite with a private bath, a great neighborhood view and skylight.  A full front porch adds to the curb appeal.

Perhaps equally attractive is the couple’s finance package.  Incentives that included tier financing of soft mortgages available through MVI’s homeownership program meant nothing was required out of pocket at closing.  A one year home warranty also sweetened the deal.

“I was really impressed with how the Mon Valley Initiative was able to walk us through every step of the way,” said Ms. Johnson.  “Any questions we had, they were able to answer.”

Those seeking counseling as Johnson and Wertz did have the opportunity to do so at MVI’s next scheduled homebuyers’ workshop Saturday, June 16.  Scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the MVI’s offices at 305 East 8th Avenue in Homestead, topics covered at the seminar will include budgeting to purchase a home, shopping for a home loan, closing procedures and home maintenance.  Attendees will also have the opportunity to schedule face-to-face appointments with MVI’s housing counselor and get information on upcoming MVI home construction.

A light breakfast and lunch as well as free parking will be provided.  For more information about the non-profit agency’s housing counseling program and registration for the June 16 event, call MVI’s Housing Counselor Mike Mauer at: 412-464-4000 x 4008 or visit

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