Meet Gerard Miller, who works at Homestead Community Land Trust, a Seattle nonprofit that helps make homes more affordable for people vital to the community, such as police officers, social workers and teachers. In this model, the homebuyer owns the house and leases the land from Homestead.
Here, Miller talks about the job.
What do you do? I am the homeownership coordinator at Homestead Community Land Trust. At Homestead, we build, sell and “steward” homes that are priced to be permanently affordable for low- and moderate-income households in King County (think teachers and first responders). I get to work with people throughout the process of purchasing one of our homes, fielding questions and providing assistance (we call it stewardship) to current homeowners in our community.
How did you get started in this field? I got my start in the affordable housing market when I worked as the community outreach coordinator at Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. While I was engaging with community members there, I identified the need for comprehensive financial literacy education. This led me to initiate a financial capabilities program there and, since then, I’ve become a full-time financial literacy and housing counselor.
What’s a typical day like? A typical day starts with responding to homeowner and partner emails and phone calls over my morning coffee. A homeowner might need help with a repair or refinance, or a partner might want to collaborate on a project. I’m also in charge of our Homebuyer Club program, which helps people identify obstacles to buying a home and set goals to help them succeed. We’ll be running Homebuyer Clubs for our active housing developments in Seattle, Renton and Tukwila.
What surprises people about what you do? People are always surprised that such a job/organization exists at all! Community land trusts don’t get a lot of attention in the affordable housing conversation. A lot of people are shocked that someone like me is here helping find affordable alternatives in a high-cost housing market like King County. You hear a lot about the affordable housing crisis, but not a lot about how to solve it. My hope is that Homestead and I can give more people the opportunity to secure affordable housing through homeownership.
What’s the best part of the job? The best part of my job is being able to directly help people realize the dream of homeownership. It’s an intimidating environment packed with jargon, paperwork and time-sensitive decisions — and I love being here to help first-time buyers. Nothing feels better than having a homeowner come back and say that I really helped them understand the process or allayed some of their worries.
One of the first resales I was involved in … was for a six-person household, and the parents are from Somalia. … During the home inspection, I was able to walk through the house with them and see their excitement at the prospect of being homeowners. The kids ran around the house, calling dibs on their bedrooms and exploring the backyard and the edible landscaping. The energy was palpable, and it was wonderful being able to see it up close.
When we later got to the closing table, they brought the children along to be a part of the process. The entire family was elated when we finished, and I could hear the joy in the father’s voice later that day on the phone when he walked into his house for the first time.
I was honored to be involved in this opportunity for them.