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First State Bank, headquartered in Macomb County, has found a unique way to use its community banking philosophy. The Bank has partnered with the City of Warren and nonprofit organization Vets Returning Home to assist local Veterans who aspire to homeownership.
The City of Warren had an inventory of municipal-owned properties and wanted the homes to be used to create a positive impact in the community. The City contacted Vets Returning Home, a local nonprofit that strives to help Veterans become independent, to see if these unoccupied properties could be used to help local Veterans.
The City plans to deed the properties for one dollar each to Veterans who are working with Vets Returning Home. Vets must agree to stay in the property for a minimum of five years. Eligible Veterans were chosen based on a set of criteria including demonstration of personal responsibility and interest in homeownership.
Through the years, Vets Returning Home has housed 1,700 Veterans and provided services to an additional 1,000 Veterans through its programs. Their 11,000 square foot facility houses 43 beds for Veterans, as well as case management services. The facility is also home to a furniture bank and a food bank to assist military families.
While the properties are in relatively good shape, some repairs might be required. These repairs range from roofing and windows to flooring and other home modifications, as necessary. Because these repairs can be costly, an opportunity was created for occupants to pay back a loan for the repairs, in turn helping the occupants rebuild damaged credit.
A well-known community supporter, First State Bank, was asked to consider extending credit in the form of a one-time remodel loan, for necessary repairs that would make these homes safe and functional for occupants. These rehab loans would be issued with the promise that they would be repaid by the Vets themselves. Since many of the Vets in the program have challenges due to the impacts of their service, these loans will help them build more positive credit histories and thus more stable financial options in the future. In addition, First State Bank will not charge interest or fees for the participants of this program for the rehab loans. The Bank will require participants to complete related financial literacy courses as part of the agreement.
When asked why First State Bank was willing to assist with this project, President and CEO, Eugene Lovell remarked, “When neighborhoods surrounding our branches thrive, we can thrive as a community bank. This program makes sense for everyone involved. The neighbors surrounding these homes will enjoy the value of these occupied homes, the Vets will have stable, affordable housing while improving their credit histories, and the city will have more satisfied residents.”
Marc Reneau, Mortgage & Consumer Loan Manager, 1st Vice President commented, “It is always a privilege to serve Veterans with affordable, no money down VA loans – but disabled Vets who are faced with a housing crisis deserve a chance to rebuild under a roof they can eventually call their own. It’s been an honor to work with Sandy Bowers from Vets Returning Home to make this happen.”
In his 2021 State of the City address, Warren mayor James R. Fouts shared his deep and abiding respect for Veterans as he introduced the program. He stated, “Veterans have a special place in my heart and this is the first program of its kind in the country. I am proud that we are able to initiate this program. I would like to thank First State Bank’s Team led by Mark Reneau who will offer low interest, flexible mortgages to veterans to purchase these homes for $1.00. The Vets Returning Home team led by Sandy Bower will identify veterans for purchases.” Mayor Fouts praised First State Bank for being “the only bank to bank on Veterans.”
To further support the eight recipients of these homes, First State Bank is holding a goods drive for the supplies these, and other vets may need when moving into stable housing. The drive takes place from July 4- July 31st. Items can be brought to any of the 13 First State Bank locations. Veteran needs range from cleaning supplies to paper towels and first aid kits.
For a complete list of requested items and for details on other ways that First State Banks is recognizing Military Service during the month of July, visit www.fsbcares.com.
Vets Returning Home is in Roseville, Michigan. Over the years, Vets Returning Home has housed 1,700 Veterans and provided services to an additional 1,000 Veterans through its programs. Their 11,000 square foot facility houses 43 beds for Veterans and a commercial kitchen. Onsite services include employment readiness training, aid with job placement, disability benefit connection, legal support, and life skills training. For information on Vets Returning Home, contact Sandy Bower at (586) 216-8510.
For questions regarding the City of Warren, contact the mayor’s office at (586) 574-4520.