When Kent Attainable Housing (KAH) board members contacted Upper Shore SCORE for help with their business plan they were already moving forward with their first home. It had been less than a year since obtaining their nonprofit status, and already they had raised thousands of dollars in donations, purchased their first property on College Avenue in Chestertown, and contracted for a new modular home to be built and installed on the site.
It was spring of 2020, and concerned Kent County residents were already pitching in to help ease a desperate situation for the county’s working poor. Like many other rural counties across America, Kent County has a shortage of affordable houses and a high percentage of low income families. The need is especially dire for the county’s single moms, 82% of whom, along with 600 children live in poverty. Without access to low cost housing, these working parents face a tenuous future with little chance to put down roots and build financial security for their families.
The KAH team learned quickly that solving the problem takes more than affordable housing, as most prospective buyers lack the credit record needed to qualify for a mortgage. Low income families often toil for years without enough cash on hand to open a savings account or finance a car, common cornerstones for building credit. KAH volunteers work closely with families, helping them to establish the credit history they’ll need to qualify for a mortgage and then to navigate the approval process. At present, KAH is working with more than 30 low income families who are hoping to eventually purchase their own homes.
Making it work
KAH relies on donations and grants to raise the initial funding to purchase the property and build the house. Once a family secures the mortgage to purchase the house, the capital is returned to KAH and recycled to build the next house. KAH serves as a nonprofit contractor with no fees or markups. The final result is that the family gets a solid, practical house at an affordable price and KAH recycles its funding to continue its vital mission. KAH’s first house is scheduled for completion in early November and their first family of five is excited to be in their new home for the holidays.
The long-term objective of KAH is to enable four families each year to purchase their own home. It’s a bold plan that will take determination, hard work and a lot of working capital. This is why they turned to SCORE business mentors Bill Noll and Zane Carter to help them devise a business plan with financial projections that quantify the amount of capital that KAH will need to ensure a sound, sustainable future. In addition to helping with the business plan, their SCORE mentors provide assistance with marketing communications and donor outreach initiatives.
"Our SCORE team helped us think and re-think every aspect of our organization including our mission and strategies, challenges and opportunities, said Lani Seikaly, KAH President. "Part cheerleader and part tough love, they asked hard questions, listened carefully to our answers and followed up with more good questions and potential resources. Their skillful facilitation and insightful observations made this process thought-provoking and effective."
To learn more about KAH or make a donation visit KentAttainableHousing.org.