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Bridgeport Women Are Home For The Holidays Thanks To City Program

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim chats with Joann Smith in her new home on Oakwood Street. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Homeowner Joann Smith encourages others to use Bridgeport's Down Payment Assistance Program to help buy a home in the city. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Eighty-three-year-old Grace Conquest has 10 children, but she has never owned her own home — until now.

On Thursday, Conquest and her daughter Joann Smith welcomed Mayor Joseph Ganim and other city dignitaries into their Oakwood Street home, purchased in large part because of the city’s relaunched Down Payment Assistance Program.

“I am a person of second chances on so many levels,” said Smith, a mother of three. “I live a life dedicated to helping women. There is a way out and you can make it and rise to the top.”

The city announced that nearly $300,000 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to help low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers realize their dreams.

Smith is the fourth homebuyer to successfully secure a loan since the city revitalized the program. Bridgeport hopes to fund another 20 down payments with the $250,000 left in the fund, said Elizabeth Torres, CEO of Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust.

“This is how we can make it easy and make it happen,” Ganim said.

Under the down payment assistance program, individuals who qualify based on family income thresholds can receive a grant of up to $15,000 toward down payment and/or closing costs for purchasing a new home in Bridgeport.

The buyer must be able to put down at least 1 percent of the purchase price and must complete home-buying training through BNT.

BNT will also help the potential homeowner through any roadblocks, such as a poor credit score, and assist in achieving pre-approval for a loan, said Beverly Hoppie, BNT’s home ownership education director.

The buyer commits to living in the new home for at least five years.

Previously, buyers could only receive a maximum grant of $10,000 and they had to put down 2 percent of the purchase price. The revisions make the program far more attractive to new homebuyers, Ganim said.

The house Smith and Conquest moved into a month ago was in foreclosure, Hoppie said. The sale brings it back on city tax rolls.

“I want residents of Bridgeport and other communities to know – we want you to buy in Bridgeport, and make the Park City your permanent home,” Ganim said. “We have wonderful houses in this city, very affordable options in great neighborhoods. This is a wonderful way to help residents who want to build their lives here.”

KeyBank was the mortgage lender for Smith’s purchase, and it also helped a second new homeowner recently.

Smith, author of the self-published book “Beating the Odds,” said she has overcome obstacles to get where she is in life. She tackled a drug problem 38 years ago and has been helping others ever since.

“When people say you can’t do it, you can,” she said.

For more information, contact the Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust at 203-290-4255 or the City of Bridgeport’s Office of Housing and Community Development Office at 203-576-7221.

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