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This document addresses the following areas:

• Introduction to benefits of lower-poverty areas
• How to search for housing in lower-poverty areas
• Basic Budgeting
• Resources on attaining affordable appliances, furniture, housewares
• Avoiding predatory Lending

Please note that this document is meant to be a general guide and your circumstances may require other solutions. You may wish to talk with a housing professional, a counselor or caseworker about your specific needs.

The Benefits of Living In Lower-Poverty Neighborhoods
It is an unfortunate truth that in our modern society, many individuals and families who are on rent subsidy programs and/or are not paid a living wage become "clustered" in "low-income" neighborhoods and may not be aware of other neighborhood opportunities. Research has shown that many people believe that because they are on a subsidy, they "deserve" to live in a low-income neighborhood. This is an unfortunate myth.

In most major metro markets, there are neighborhoods, that with a little extra time and effort spent searching, will yield safe, decent, affordable housing. In general, these neighborhoods have lower crime rates, offer a greater chance for employment, provide better public transportation and have higher performing neighborhood schools.

Research shows that children of families who live in lower-poverty neighborhoods have a better chance of graduating from high school, going to college and being gainfully employed. Most often, schools in lower-poverty neighborhoods will have fewer problems offering children a safer and more rewarding learning experience. Also, heads of households in these families also have a better chance of finding a decent job.

How to Search for Housing in Lower-Poverty Areas
How can you tell if a neighborhood is lower-poverty? You or a friend should visit the neighborhood at different times of day and on different days (if possible), in the morning and the evening for example and observe the following neighborhood characteristics and answers the following questions:

• How does the rent compare with other similar properties in other parts of the community? Is the rent too low for what the unit should cost? Look for rent prices around the average rental range, because super-low rents may indicate an unsafe area.

• Are the houses and/or buildings in the neighborhood in good repair?

• Are there empty buildings and/or abandoned cars?

• Is there trash in the yards and/or are the yards poorly maintained?

• Does the neighborhood have an appearance of being "run down"?

• Are people loitering in public places, on corners or at houses?

• What kinds of businesses are in the area?

All of the above may be signs of a troubled neighborhood.

If your neighborhood fits the description above and you are on rent subsidy program, you may be able to locate other housing when your recertification or renewal comes up (usually yearly). Talk with your housing counselor or case worker about the possibility of relocating to another neighborhood that meets your individual needs. If you don't ask, you'll never know.

You may want to consider becoming involved in neighborhood meetings if you have the time and ability to do so. Meeting and talking with your neighbors may help to improve conditions that are a problem in the neighborhood.

The Internet can give you facts about neighborhoods. Many City websites have assessments of crime rates, residential data and economic aspects of neighborhoods and can help you determine whether or not an area is safe and decent.

One of the easiest ways to start searching for housing in lower-poverty areas is to use Socialserve.com's affordable housing search, which is available online at www.socialserve.com or by phone at 704.334.8722 (or toll free outside of the 704/980 calling area at 1.877.428.8844).

Basic Budgeting
Successful budgeting involves managing your money smartly. To do this, you must know how much you make and how much you spend each month. If possible, you want to make more than you spend each month (big surprise right?), leaving extra to put into savings and prepare for future purchases like a car, trade school, college or a home.

When you look at how much you owe and have to spend each month, you can better plan your spending and saving. Housing, transportation and debt may take the largest chunks out of your monthly income,but it is important to remember that smaller expenses—school supplies, clothing, haircuts, groceries—add up quickly.

Socialserve.com provides a Monthly Budget Worksheet [ pdf 44 KB ] (  Adobe logo Get Adobe Acrobat Reader  Opens new browser window ) that breaks monthly expenses into categories such as debt, rent/house payment, car, childcare, groceries, meals out, entertainment, cable, phone, medical, prescriptions, hair care, gifts, school supplies, etc.

After you fill out the worksheet, if you find that you have a shortage, you have two options to help move you from shortage to surplus: you can cut your expenses in some areas (look to areas such as Cigarettes & Other Habits, Clothing & Clothing Care, Hair & Nail Care) or you can do something to raise your income.

You can also look to the Internet for budget calculators to help you figure out how much you can afford. This can help you decide how much you need to save up in order to make big purchases easier on your bank account. If you're already overloaded in debt, visit Consumer Credit Counseling.


Resources on Attaining Affordable Appliances, Furniture, Housewares
Fees and deposits can make moving very expensive. To top it off, your new home will need new household items like cleaning and storage supplies, Lower your moving-related expenses by being a smart shopper. Discount stores sell household goods at low prices. Warehouse stores require membership dues, but these stores have great savings if you don't mind buying some items in bulk. For high-quality, used merchandise, consignment stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army offer great bargains.

Avoiding Predatory Lending
A few common predatory lending practices are

• Flipping: the encouragement of frequent refinancing in order to charge high fees and points to the borrower

• Packing: filling a loan with extras without sufficiently representing the package or extra fees associated with the extras

• Inflating: charging excessive rates and fees to a borrower Lending can also be predatory when lenders

• Base lending on a borrower's assets instead of on their ability to repay

• Employ deceptive marketing tactics or misrepresent a package's features or fees

Sometimes, a lending practice only seems predatory in comparison to similar loan products. That's why it is important to do your homework. Here are a few more Dos and Don'ts when it comes to borrowing:

• Do read an offer carefully

• Do question an offer that sounds too good to be true

• Do reread an offer before you sign to make sure that none of the loan's conditions have changed from what was previously agreed upon

•Don't close on a loan until you fully understand its terms

•Don't be afraid to say no if a loan does not ultimately meet your needs; you do have other choices

For a detailed article about predatory lending, visit this page on the Web:

Socialserve is a national 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and a certified Section 3 and Second Chance employer.
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