The Impact of the NSP Program


Many low and moderate income families seeking to buy a home in Orange County's high-cost housing market find themselves unable to bridge the financial gap. 

In order to help families overcome this affordability gap, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Orange County, CA and NeighborWorks Orange County $11.5 Million in redevelopment funding through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Using NSP funds to rehabilitate foreclosed homes, NeighborWorks Orange County and its nonprofit partners are able to bring properties back up to code and provide housing opportunities for low and moderate-income families to live closer to work and family.

This video showcases the program’s impact, strategies and success stories in Orange County. Feautured in this video are NWOC clients, Alejandra and Luis Chavez of Anaheim, proud new homeowners of an NSP property. Previous to buying their home, the young couple lived with family for several years. For the Chavez Family, being able to buy their home in Orange County allowed them to stay close to work, family, and their child care provider. The family now knows the pride of homeownership and has secured a stable and comfortable home for their children to thrive and make great memories in.

To see income guidlelines for NSP Programs:

Daring to Dream: A Millennial First-Time Home Buyer


Minerva Gomez of Stanton is part of a new generation of home buyers. Young, educated, philanthropic, and career-oriented, she joined the slow-growing ranks of millennial first-time home buyers in 2014.  For this generation of potential new buyers, the obstacles can seem insurmountable. Often saddled with student loans and credit card debt, finding their way on the path to homeownership can feel like a daunting task. Though she is the rare exception to many of her peers, by managing to graduate with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree debt-free, Minerva’s path to homeownership was not without its own challenges.

Born in Mexico and raised in Orange County since the age of five, Minerva shared the American dream of homeownership with countless others.  After obtaining an advanced degree and establishing herself professionally in the non-profit sector, she set off to achieving her most sought-after goal:  purchasing her own home in Orange County. “The final step of the American dream is owning a home. It’s something I needed to feel long-term stability”, Minerva shares. To achieve her homeownership goal, Minerva turned to NeighborWorks Orange County for guidance and support. 


In 2012 Minerva met with our Friendly Expert, Blanca Magallanes, and created a personalized Roadmap to HomeOwnership Success.  Her homework included improving her credit, meeting a two year employment requirement, and increasing savings for down payment and closing costs. Minerva followed her roadmap with determination.  With Blanca out on medical leave, Minerva began working with HomeOwnership Advisor Helen Tran to update her file in 2013. During this meeting, Helen revised the plan to help  Minerva accelerate her debt pay off and savings strategy, which enabled her to pay off $413/mo. of credit card and auto loan debt, while saving $1000 a month.

Despite all her hard work, good income, credit, work history, and 5% ($10,000) of the purchase price in savings, Minerva was still not able to bridge the financial gap for a starter home in Orange County’s extremely high-cost housing market. Fortunately, with the little extra push provided by our CalHome and Daisy down payment programs, and the excellent support of our in-house Realtor®, Sylvia Badillo, Minerva is now the proud owner of a 2-bedroom, 1 ½ bath condominium in La Habra.

When asked how she achieved her goal, Minerva states, “Receiving the right coaching, being good with your money, having the right down payment programs and people alongside you is key.”


Photos by Joel Rahmatulla

Community Building Spotlight: Connect-to-Council's Connie Hamilton


Connie Hamilton, Chairperson and founding member of the Santa Ana-based civic engagement organization, Connect-to-Council, has been an active leader in her community for over a decade. As a fourteen-year resident of Santa Ana, she has served as President of South Coast Neighborhood Association since 2003.

In 2008, Hamilton was inspired to take a more active leadership role in city government and affairs after attending the Leadership Santa Ana forum, sponsored by NeighborWorks Orange County, the City of Santa Ana, and OC Human Relations. Out of this leadership training, Hamilton and several other participants realized that they shared the desire to help Santa Ana residents get better connected to their city council and the idea for Connect-to-Council was born. 


Today, Connect-to-Council works to increase Santa Ana neighborhood participation in civic affairs and empower residents and neighborhood leaders to positively and constructively communicate with their elected officials.

Hamilton shares, “Connecting the community is the main key and benefit in neighborhood involvement. It is certainly a concentric process and the value can be felt by the individuals stepping up to participate and the residents being served. It is a legacy that anyone can leave for their own community.”

Hamilton has received several awards in recognition of her work in Santa Ana, including the Neighborhood Hero for South Coast Neighborhood from the City of Santa Ana in 2009 and the Seniors Making a Difference Award in 2014, presented by Senator Lou Correa. Hamilton also serves as a volunteer for the Santa Ana Response Team, as well as Santa Ana Volunteers in Policing.

On Saturday March 7, NeighborWorks Orange County will honor Connie with our 2015 Good Neighbor Award



Friendly Expert Spotlight: Helen Tran


Meet Our Friendly Expert Helen Tran



When you are looking to buy a home, our Friendly Expert Helen Tran is someone you want on your side. Helen joined our team as a HomeOwnership Advisor and Foreclosure Intervention Counselor in 2008. Like many of our advisors, she began as a volunteer conducting our Homebuyer Education Workshops,particularly for the Vietnamese community of Orange County. Helen is committed to going above and beyond to advocate for her clients.


Helen uses her knowledge as a former Realtor, along with her extensive training and counseling certifications, to advise clients on topics such as maintaining a strong budget, paying down debt, and qualifying for various down payment and loan programs. During the peak of the foreclosure crisis, Helen applied her knowledge to help numerous families prevent foreclosure.  Her hard work and dedication earned her the trust of the community.

Success Story: A Home for a Family Who Gives Back

A Home for a Family Who Gives Back to the Community


Gabriel and Mayra Reyes, parents to two young daughters and a teenage foster child, were living in a three-bedroom apartment in Stanton. They quickly found that they needed more room for their growing family and longed to give their children the stability neither of them had experienced while growing up in apartment buildings.


But their dream of one day owning a home seemed impossible as the couple encountered unexpected obstacles on their path to homeownership. Many lenders would not consider their non-taxable income as foster parents. They were told by several Realtors to look elsewhere in Riverside or San Bernardino because Orange County’s home prices would be out of their reach. Doing so, however, would mean Mayra and Gabriel, foster parents for over five years in a special program for children with behavioral issues, could no longer continue to serve as a stepping stone for these children as the program requires them to live in Orange County.


Partnership Spotlight - Leonel Talavera - Habitat OC

Meet Leonel Talavera, Neighborhood Revitalization Manager for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.


Leonel and Habitat OC have played a vital role in our efforts to improve the lives of the residents of Fullerton's Woodcrest Community. We have been partnering with Habitat OC in this neighborhood since 2012, when we began a collaborative effort to train and mentor resident leaders. In January 2014, Leonel joined the effort through Habitat OC's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative and quickly began to work closely with our Community Building team. 

The Woodcrest Community is made up of predominantly Latino lower and middle income families, divided between those who live in the 500-unit apartment complex directly adjacent to Woodcrest Elementary School and the surrounding homeowners. Before our involvement in the neighborhood, safety concerns, gangs, and a general lack of available resources all plagued the community. Together, NWOC and Habitat OC organized local resident volunteers and key community stakeholders, including school administrators at the neighborhood's most vital asset - Woodcrest Elementary. The school serves as "the one safe haven that the residents have," according to Leonel. 

Leveraging our resources, we have helped to make Woodcrest a more beautiful, vibrant, healthy, and safe community by determining neighborhood assets and needs via a resident survey and then connecting residents with the right community partners to help facilitate lasting change. At the heart of this collaboration are the weekly meetings held at Woodcrest Elementary where residents are given a voice to speak about the issues and concerns they face. It was at one of these meeetings that the issue of health and wellness was highlighted. Leonel soon became instrumental in implementing a healthy achiever challenge, which sought to promote health and fitness within the community by forming resident walking clubs and organizing a neighborhood bike ride via OCTA's Bike Share Program. 

The grassroots collaboration between Habitat OC, NWOC, and the residents of the Woodcrest community has since led to several Neighborhood Pride clean-up and revitalization events, the forming of a resident leadership group, creating an emergency center at Woodcrest Elementary, and conducting a bike clinic for residents. 

"Our goal is to leave a well-formed, well-trained group of residents who can make lasting change in their community," Leonel says. “We’re proud of all that our residents have accomplished so far and we’re excited to continue working with them to make the Woodcrest Community a better place to live."

Resident Spotlight: Blanca Garcia

When walking into the Woodcrest Community Group meeting, don’t be fooled by the babies running around. Made up of mostly Latina mothers, their children and grandchildren are the reason this group of "señoras" have become leaders of positive change in their neighborhood.  


Formed roughly three years ago, the group meets every Tuesday at Woodcrest Elementary. The issues they discuss range from the need for a new playground, to seeing who can aid Woodcrest Elementary teachers where many of the group’s children attend. The meetings resemble family gatherings with many coming with their babies and infants and sometimes bringing food, like arroz con leche or sweet bread.

Blanca Garcia, a longtime resident of the Woodcrest Neighborhood, has been actively involved since the group’s beginning. We chatted with her about the group’s work, the importance of NeighborWorks Orange County’s involvement in the area, and what the Woodcrest neighborhood means to her:

Q: How familiar are you with your neighbors?

A:  I have known nearly all of my neighbors for many years now because of our connections through our children. 

Q: How long have you been involved in Woodcrest?

A:  I have been involved in Woodcrest for many years. I began volunteering as a teacher's assistant in the classrooms when my daughters were very young.

Q: How did you meet staff at NeighborWorks?

A: Karla Lopez del Rio, with NeighborWorks Orange County, was one of two initiators. She and Alex Osborne, from Habitat OC, were the ones that started this group. We began as a group of mothers who would walk together every Wednesday to shop at a nearby market. We met Alex while we were on a walk and he began to get to know us and ask us questions about our neighborhood.

Q: How has NeighborWorks helped you grow during your time with the group?

A:  NeighborWorks has helped me to feel more confident speaking in public and in leading my community. I know of many  people whose lives have been changed since they joined our group also.

Q: What would have it been like if NeighborWorks wasn’t involved in the Woodcrest Neighborhood?

A: I think if this group didn’t form, there would be less progress made here. Among the bigger things we have accomplished was a large resident survey. Karla and Alex helped us to hold workshops for the neighborhood residents to talk about their concerns. The truth is that they changed the lives of everyone here in the community. Without them, none of this would have happened.

Q: How and why are you involved in Woodcrest?

A: I love to bring joy to others lives and to see how happy they become when good things happen to them.


(Translated from Spanish)

Resident Leader Spotlight- Rose Espinoza & the Beginnings of Grassroots Change


Lasting change often comes from a grassroots level, and no one knows this more than Rose Espinoza.

In 1991, the growing gang activity and lack of after-school options for children led Espinoza to found an after-school tutoring program called Rosie's Garage. Starting out of Espinoza’s personal residence in La Habra, students would receive tutoring in multiple subjects, mentorship, and access to computers to do homework. The program has since grown to multiple locations around La Habra.

In 2002, Espinoza was elected to the La Habra city council; in 2004, she was elected mayor.

Before Espinoza started saving hundreds of at-risk youth through Rosie’s Garage, she and her husband were looking for a home to buy in Orange County. NeighborWorks Orange County -then known as Neighborhood Housing Services of La Habra - helped Espinoza and her husband buy the house that would later be the site of Rosie’s Garage.

Awards and Recognitions:

    • Recipient of the National Caring Award - a prestigious honor that has been given to  Mother Teresa, Rev. Billy Graham, and baseball Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. (2007)
    • Recognized in the Frederick Douglass Museum and Hall of Fame for Caring Americans, Washington D.C.
    • La Habra representative on the Hillside Open Space Education Coalition and the Southern California Association of Governments.
    • North Orange County Magazine's “25 Most Influential People” (2006)
    • Orange County Register profile in "100 People Who Shaped Orange County" (2005)
    • Woman of the Year Award from Assemblywoman, 72nd District, Lynn Daucher (2002)
    • Points of Light Presidential Service Award from President Bill Clinton (1994)
    • Featured in Reader’s Digest and People Magazine.