Habitat for Humanity is known for building and helping financially struggling families buy homes. But in Charlottesville the non-profit is getting into the car business through a unique partnership that could serve as a model for Virginia and the nation.
Janette Kowachi says her organization – Habitat for Humanity – helps low-income families get their finances in order, so they can afford to own a home – and that means offering various services: intensive financial coaching, job navigation, child care support, transportation resources.
And that's where the program – called Driving Lives Forward – comes in. It began with the United Way, a local car dealership called Carter-Myer and Virginia National Bank. They help families find affordable, certified used cars and arrange loans with interest rates under 5%.
"They don’t have to spend days searching for a vehicle that they can afford," Kowachi explains. "They don’t have to worry that they are buying a lemon. They don’t have to worry that they’re being talked into a predatory loan, and then they can get into a reliable, affordable car all while building their credit."
Without a program like this, Kowachi says, parents who lose their jobs often lose their cars and get into a spiral of debt that leads to bankruptcy. Habitat hopes Driving Lives Forward will keep people on a straight path to owning their own home.