June is a milestone month for many reasons. It’s the official start of summer, the end of the school year and the season in which many families begin the home-buying process.
For many families, the path to homeownership starts with a call to a financial institution to take advantage of today’s low interest rates or new programs that offer easier and more affordable options. Community banks are a great resource to help these families determine the right time to buy a home and navigate the process.
Community banks also specialize in non-traditional financing programs that can help families overcome challenges to homeownership and obtain their dream home. Community banks focus on building one-on-one relationships with their customers and can make loans to individuals that big banks won’t make. And because they live in the communities they serve, community bankers have a personal stake in helping their neighborhoods and hometowns flourish.
All Together Now
That was the case for Eddie Jean Smith, who long dreamed of being a homeowner. Last year, Habitat for Humanity partnered with nine banks in Jackson, Miss., to build a home for Eddie and her two children.
These banks—including ICBA members Origin Bank, First Commercial Bank and BankFirst Financial Services— have supported Habitat for Humanity through the years by financing housing, sponsoring events and serving on boards and committees. But 2015 was the first time employees of all nine participating banks pitched in to build a home together.
The collaboration has the “potential to be a catalyst for rebirth and transformation” of Greenview Drive—a once-thriving neighborhood in South Jackson, said Cindy Griffin, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area.
Ripple Effect—Leading the Charge
Also last spring Citizens Bank in Kilgore, Texas, took the lead on a similar project on South Street to help a mother and her three young children on the path to homeownership. Thanks to a $5,000 donation (matched 3:1 by the regional Federal Home Loan Bank) and 900 volunteer hours by Citizens Bank employees and their spouses, the family will be in its new home this month.
“Our partnership with Kilgore Habitat harnesses the power of financial capital with tremendous volunteer efforts to revitalize a local community,” said Laura Rebouche', virtual banking center and marketing manager at the bank.
This collective dedication of a local community to empower families and individuals, help rebuild neighborhoods and strengthen local economies is at the heart of community banking. For example, at this year’s annual convention, ICBA Community Banking LIVE® in New Orleans, community bankers participated in a day of service to help rebuild homes that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Community bankers take great pride in strengthening their communities. Whether it’s walking customers through the home-buying process, providing funding or offering a helping hand to a local charity, community bankers work hard to help their customers realize the dream of homeownership—one home, one community at a time. To find a community bank near you, visit www.banklocally.org. To learn more about community banks and services they offer, visit www.icba.org.