Joseph O’Brien grew up in Mattapoisett, went to college at UMass Dartmouth, and then got a job as an accountant at a local nonprofit social service organization. Like many young professionals trying to make it in this tough economy, he first lived with his parents so he could save money to buy his own home.
Thanks to the Southern Mass Credit Union (SMCU) and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) SoftSecond Loan Program, O’Brien was able to realize his American Dream, buying a home in Fairhaven that is near his job and the place where he grew up. His story illustrates why MHP honored Southern Mass Credit Union in August, with a HomeSafe Award for its success making SoftSecond loans to working class first-time homebuyers in southeastern Massachusetts.
Among those recognized at the event honoring Southern Mass Credit Union (SMCU) were (left-right) SMCU Loan Officer Lucy Machado, SMCU President and CEO Dan Waltz, homeowner Joseph O’Brien, SMCU Board Chairman David Darmofal, and Debra Tower, SMCU vice president of member services.
At a time when many financial institutions were pulling back from making home loans, Southern Mass Credit Union increased its SoftSecond lending to low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers. Southern Mass made loans in Fairhaven, Marion, New Bedford, and Wareham to homebuyers with an average total household income of $40,000 per year. Since joining the program in 2005, Southern Mass has now provided over $1 million in private mortgage financing to low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers in the south coast region.
“While many mortgage lenders have been pulling back, Southern Mass Credit Union has stepped up its commitment to helping first-time homebuyers fulfill their dream of homeownership by making good loans that keep homebuyers in their home for the long run,” said Clark Ziegler, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership. “The credit union’s support of SoftSecond has not only helped first-time homebuyers, it has helped promote owner-occupied homeownership and neighborhood stability.”
“The SoftSecond Loan Program is the most affordable mortgage program for working-class, first-time homebuyers,” said Dan Waltz, president and CEO of Southern Mass Credit Union. “We’re proud to be able to offer the SoftSecond program as it fits perfectly with our philosophy of people helping people.”
O’Brien, now 29, said he was actively looking to buy a home for 18 months and said a SoftSecond mortgage was the best fit for him because of the low interest rate and because the program doesn’t require the buyer to purchase costly private mortgage insurance. “If it wasn’t for SoftSecond, owning a home would’ve been tough for me,” said O’Brien. “A few of my friends are looking to buy homes now and I’ve been telling them they should look into SoftSecond.”
At the presentation of the HomeSafe Award, MHP Homeownership Director Gina Govoni presented the award to Waltz and delivered citations from Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown.
Approximately 25 community and business leaders attended the event, including Dr. Brian Bowcock, chairman of the board of selectmen; Representative William Strauss; New Bedford City Councilor James Oliveira; Fairhaven Selectman Charles Murphy; and Michael Hanson, former state banking commissioner and now president of MSIC.