For nine years Thomas and Angela were happy Twin City renters, living seven years in a Minneapolis apartment and two years in a St. Louis Park townhome.

“I liked renting when I was single, and newly engaged and even with one child. We just had a key and no responsibility,” said Angela.  But a changing life style and a growing family motivated the couple to explore homeownership opportunities in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs. “For three years we actively looked for homes located within one hour west of the cities where both of our families live,” she said.

Unfortunately the properties they could afford had tiny yards, detached garages and bedrooms on more than one level. Their house search took an unexpected and welcome turn when Angela had a discussion with a Homes Within Reach (HWR) homeowner. “I was setting up pre-school for one of my children and talking with an early childhood education parent educator about pre-school finances, which led to a discussion about our on-going house search. The parent educator told me about her experience as a HWR homeowner, which sounded wonderful. I immediately drove home and downloaded the HWR application.  I knew this was the break we needed. It was really important to see if we would actually be considered for the HWR program.”

The mission of the not for profit organization, West Hennepin Affordable Land Trust (WHAHLT), dba Homes Within Reach (HWR), is to create and preserve affordable homeownership for work-force families living and working in the suburban communities of Hennepin County. HWR offers qualified work-force families the opportunity to purchase a home by using the Community Land Trust practice which removes the land from the mortgage equation and leases the land at a nominal fee, which reduces the mortgage, down payment and closing costs.

“Until I heard about HWR I didn’t know a land trust existed. Initially my husband and even my family thought it all sounded too good to be true,” said Angela. “But then we sat down with the HWR staff and shared our list of house essentials and two months later they showed us what would become our home in Minnetonka – it met all of our housing needs and some extras. It fits us great and was so worth the wait!”

HWR staff work with families that would be otherwise unable to buy a home in Minnetonka; thereby opening the door to them as homeowners to invest in endeavors that truly enhance the quality of their lives – such as education for the family, career opportunities, supportive health environment and the comfort and the security of being a homeowner.

“I felt pretty overwhelmed by the hoops and obstacles to ownership but the HWR staff were good at letting us know we qualified,” said Angela. “We attended an 8 hour class and it was great to work with professionals who know the ins and outs of homeownership.  I felt like the HWR staff were on our side from the beginning. They run a smooth operation which helped my family find the perfect space to call our own – our forever home.”

The family was excited to move into their Minnetonka home at the end of January 2017 and appreciated that prior to moving in, HWR, completed work on the chimney and retaining wall, installed new gutters, new electrical panel, new hot water heater, replaced the front steps and railing along with new doors and toilets to make them energy efficient, re-did the stucco on the garage, and installed a radon mitigation system among other items.

“We haven’t passed all the seasons here yet and right now, it’s fun to plan out our present and our future. We feel super lucky and relieved that we landed in a home and a neighborhood that is better for all of us and it is safe for our children to go out and play.”