TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — “These are my bigs right here and this is KJ,” Kia Raymond said pointing at a wall full of photos in her new home.
Raymond is a single mother of four and one of the thousands of Tampa Bay area residents impacted by the housing crisis.
“I said I have to do something because if I can’t afford it now, what are you going to do when the time comes you have no roof over your head for your children,” she said.
Raymond has been renting for her whole life, seeing the costs go up year after year. Reality sunk in, in the form of a letter in 2022.
“Early last year, my renewal came in and they said clear black and white $350 minimum it was going up,” she said.
So, she started asking questions and went to the City of Tampa for help.
“Clearly we can’t help everyone; the needs far outpace any resources we have to put toward homeownership,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said. “But we do everything we can with what we have.”
Raymond received more than $130,000 to help purchase her first home, something Castor says isn’t an easy process.
“It’s not a simple process and it takes many many hands,” she said. “It takes many programs, many groups, many individuals and many different funding sources to bring us here today.”
Raymond and her four children not only have a roof over their head, but a home they now own.
“It’s mine,” Raymond exclaimed. “It’s stable, generational wealth; it’s an accomplishment.”
“It’s doable, and it’s something I hope everyone has.”
On Wednesday, Raymond stood tall in her new home looking at a vision board she created on December 31, dreaming of owning a home in 2023.
Her message? You can do it too.
“If you don’t know where to start, the REACH program is the perfect place to start,” she explained. “The City of Tampa is here to help you and back you up, you just have to keep the faith, do the work and you’ll accomplish your goal.”
“Go through the process, push through, keep the faith, turn in your documents, listen and learn and you can achieve the goal that I did,” she continued. “I’m so happy.”
The City of Tampa is hosting its annual “Pathway to Homeownership” event Saturday at the Tampa Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Housing counselors, real estate and financial experts will be on-site to answer the same questions Raymond began asking on things like how to budget for your first home and the steps to follow to apply and qualify for a mortgage.
Spanish-language workshops will also be offered.
“We do not want our residents to give up on their homeownership goals, no matter how difficult they may seem to achieve right now,” Mayor Castor said. “Over the years, we have helped hundreds of individuals secure their first homes through our DARE to Own the Dream Homeownership Program, which provides up to $40,000 in down payment assistance to income-eligible households.”