While millennials are often criticized for challenging entrenched social norms or vilified for the time they spend posting selfies on the internet, they are also hailed as innovators who are channeling their expansive mentality and commitment to positive change into their big dreams. Whether on social media, at the polls, or in their own neighborhoods, millennials are pushing the envelope and making their environments reflect who they are. Contrary to the perception that millennials lack focus or commitment, their parents’ and grandparents’ struggles during the recession taught many not to take anything at face value. This commitment to growth and also to caution extends to millennials’ dreams of homeownership. Despite the decreases in homeownership decried in the media, 93% of current renters between the ages of 18-34 want to own their own home someday.
Luis and Jetaime Flores, lifelong Chicagoans who live in Belmont-Cragin with their 3-year-old son, are looking at “houses with character because we have a lot of character!” Dedicated to their community, the Flores’s are involved in doing community work through their church, and have organized game days, community sales, a men’s basketball league, weekly Bible studies, and more. For them, one factor of buying their first house is “bringing our character to the community we live in,” in order to keep the spirit of their neighborhood vibrant. 28 and 27 respectively, Luis and Jetaime grew up during the recession and have witnessed the changes to their childhood neighborhoods. Luis and Jetaime see buying a house in Chicago as both a means to preserve the city they love and to fortify it. “I wouldn’t change [Chicago] for the world,” Jetaime says. “It’s home, it really is.”
Buying a house is also a way to grow, and the Flores family contacted Spanish Coalition for Housing (SCH) because of their desire to have more space, both to host community events and expand their family. “We would love three children… but if we get another boy we’ll stop at 2!” Jetaime laughs. “Growing up, I’ve seen my parents and grandparent working improvements into their house,” Luis reflects, thinking about how senses of place and home have shaped his values. When the housing crisis happened, Luis was in high school; he realized then that he needed to pay attention to the changes in the financial market so that he could understand them when he got older. For Jetaime, buying a home and caring for her family are inextricable; she just didn’t consider it an option until she got engaged. But now that they’re ready to take such a big step, both Jetaime and Luis know they, like anyone interested in buying a home, have a lot to learn.
With the help of SCH pre-purchase counselor Madeline Morales, the Flores’s have learned how to turn their big dreams into actionable goals and eventual realities. “A lot of people think that buying a house is like buying shoes,” Luis says, “you go and find the one that fits and you buy it. Unfortunately it’s not that simple!” Excited, Jetaime had been looking at houses online, but now she realizes that “there are so many things to consider when we talk about buying a home.” Madeline has walked them through such crucial steps as rebuilding their credit, putting together a budget, and padding their savings, so that they can become as mortgage ready as they feel. “It will be a few months but it will happen for them,” Madeline says, and the Flores’s also remain hopeful; they hope to be in their new home by May, and “with a budget and Madeline’s help, it’s extremely possible,” Jetaime confirms. Waiting gives them time to keep dreaming big, and to imagine the home they will build together as a legacy for their children. “Family is the most important thing you have,” Luis says, “[and] I want to build a home as something I can leave for my son.”
This combination of legacy with novelty, and caution with excitement truly characterizes the millennial spirit when it comes to buying a home. But the advice the Flores’s offer is tried and true: “Save! Start to control your spending as much as you can, [and] stay on top of your credit… People have big dreams and overshoot their budget, [but] SCH helps you understand why you should live in your means, that way you can get what you need.”