Posted on December 4, 2018
(Note: In recognition of Thadine Brown receiving an Emerging Leader Award at the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association annual dinner on Dec. 4, we are re-posting this essay from MHP's 2017 annual report).
Thadine Brown’s pursuit of the American dream started with a wake-up call. “I was a single mom. I lived on my own and sold newspaper ads. Then I started asking myself, ‘where do I see my future and the future of my daughter?’ “
These questions set Brown on a new path and her journey is a shining example of what happens when smarts and determination meet opportunity.
When Brown’s wakeup call came, she made three decisions. She would buy a home. She would go back to college. She would move back in with her parents.
On the one hand, moving back home at age 27 wasn’t part of her dream. On the other hand, it was her dream’s foundation. She came to the U.S. from Jamaica when she was three and grew up watching her parents work hard so they could buy a three-family home in Dorchester. Her parents were her role models.
In her two years back home, while raising her daughter Azaria, Brown earned a master’s degree in management, and moved to a better job as an executive assistant for an investment firm. She saved enough for a down payment and bought a three-bedroom home in Hyde Park in 2008 for $215,000. It’s worth a lot more today.
Brown was able to buy thanks to a low-cost mortgage from MHP’s SoftSecond Loan Program. Created in 1990 to address racial disparities in mortgage lending, the program – now called ONE Mortgage – has helped over 21,000 low- and moderate-income buyers purchase their first home. It is the state’s most affordable mortgage product and more than half of all loans have been made to people of color. Participating lenders offer below-market fixed interest rates. A state-funded loan loss reserve means borrowers don’t have buy costly private mortgage insurance. This saves hundreds more each year.
For Brown, homeownership erased sadness and fear. Two months before she bought, Azaria’s father Marco died. “Buying my house helped me heal and gave me a sense of security,” she said. “As a single parent, I would often carry guilt of not being able to provide for Azaria. Now I was building wealth for her.”
Buying opened another door. The Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance – which helped create SoftSecond – asked Brown to tell her story at community meetings. She shared her journey from worry to grief to newfound hope. Audiences responded.
Brown had found her calling. She became vice president of the MAHA board. She was treasurer of “Yes for a Better Boston” and helped spearhead the campaign that led Boston to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA). In 2017, she left her job as an executive assistant and is now the CPA’s director of community relations for the city.
Now, she wakes up each day in her own home motivated by the desire to give back. She believes CPA can make neighborhoods better and she is dedicated to spreading the word about the power of homeownership. “If telling my story can inspire other single mothers, that’s what I want to do.”