Of all things to stumble across during an evening stroll with the wife and kids — some loose change, a pebble in your shoe, the dog excrement dead ahead — your future house seems like a bit of stretch.
To be fair, it wasn’t the house, the one that would eventually sit adjacent to a sweeping garden and a white vinyl fence, but it was the one that got Jason and Deeanne Maas thinking that home ownership might be the next logical step for their burgeoning family.
The apartment that they had been renting on Old Boalsburg Road had served its purpose, a roof over the heads of the their two children and a shared heating system that kept the cost of utilities well within range of the monthly budget.
“That was working pretty well for us,” Jason Maas said.
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It was unquestionably a good thing — and therefore had an expiration date that was ticking backward like the half-empty bottle of milk in the back of the refrigerator.
Changes to the way that the utilities were structured within the rent and the realities of having two small children were starting to take some of the shine off of apartment living.
They were ready to take the next step, whatever that turned out to be.
Putting down roots
The first step almost always involves some variation on paperwork — or at least it did for the State College Community Land Trust.
Over the past 20 years, the SCCLT has acquired 37 properties and worked with 55 households to provide options for affordable housing in State College.
It injects the possibility for a diverse group of people living together in the community.
Ron Quinn, executive director of the SCCLT
A study conducted by the borough had determined that housing prices had tipped past a price range attainable by people of a certain income.
The SCCLT was formed in March 1996 with an eye toward diversifying home ownership opportunities through an arrangement that would see prospective residents buy the house but lease the land that it was on from the trust.
This reduces that cost of the house by at least 30 percent.
“It injects the possibility for a diverse group of people living together in the community,” said Ron Quinn, executive director of the SCCLT.
It’s a slightly unusual arrangement, one that didn’t seem to give the Maas’ too much pause.
After all, they were looking for a place to set down roots, not to develop an investment portfolio.
The Mass’ entered the queue, a line that at any given time consists of about 10 households, all in various stages of exploring the possibility of home ownership.
Applicants have their finances examined and meet with a budget counselor to determine if they are credit ready and can carry financial burden of a house — not just the initial purchase, but the unforeseen expenses that crop up in the form of a busted radiator or a broken window.
“There’s a reality here that not everybody can be a homeowner. Not everyone should be homeowner,” Quinn said.
Moving on up
The Maas’ set up shop in their new home in the Borough of State College in 2005.
“It’s easy to remember because my wife found out that she was pregnant with our third child soon after we moved in,” Jason said.
Before they sold the house to the Maas’, the SCCLT had it professionally inspected, updating the electrical system and insulation and removing some lead paint.
It’s been a real blessing to our family. My wife has really enjoyed living there and having a home of our own.
Aesthetics were left entirely in the hands of the new owners.
A couple of lighting fixtures got the boot, as did a rickety old fence in the backyard. It wasn’t long before the place felt like home.
“It’s been a real blessing to our family. My wife has really enjoyed living there and having a home of our own,” Jason said.
He and his wife have been a one-car family since they were married and living in the thick of State College has allowed them both some flexibility when it comes to travel arrangements.
Jason bikes to his job in IT support at DiscipleMakers, a Christian mission organization on Science Park Road in State College. That leaves the family minivan up for grabs during the day.
Home ownership has enhanced the family’s lifestyle beyond the superficial. They’ve built relationships with neighbors and have a vested interest in the life of the borough, its leaders and the others who call it home.
“I probably wouldn’t choose to engage as much if I didn’t feel as committed to the community,” Jason said.
Per their agreement with the SCCLT, the Maas’ can sell their home at any time to another income eligible family, but it seems as if they have no plans to leave any time soon.
“For our kids, it’s really the only home they’ve known,” Maas said.
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