House with yard and driveway

Fulfilling the dream of home ownership

How community lending programs and local partnerships helped make affordable housing a reality for a Tampa resident

When home prices and mortgage rates are both on the rise, owning a home can feel like an elusive goal for people of low to moderate income. But what first-time homebuyers may not realize is that resources are often available that can make the real estate market less intimidating. With the help of a community lending officer, Ralph Jackson of East Tampa, Florida, took advantage of some of those resources — and as a result was able, at the age of 61, to purchase his first home.

A lifelong resident of East Tampa, Jackson had long assumed that owning a home was not within his reach. Then, in 2019, he walked past a sign advertising a first-time homebuyers program offered through a housing nonprofit and a local homebuilder. Jackson thought it couldn’t hurt to see whether he qualified. He not only met the criteria — he also found out about opportunities for financial assistance that could help get him to his goal.

The journey wasn’t without its hurdles. Almost as soon as the process began, the pandemic brought things to a standstill, but not before Jackson connected with Patti Bonner, a community lending officer at Bank of America in Tampa. She became his steady guide, eventually introducing him to a Bank of America Connect to Own partner, Solita’s House, a community development organization that provides homeownership education and counseling.

Patti Bonner and Ralph Jackson

“He was a man who wouldn’t give up,” says Bonner. “Even though there were lots of setbacks because of COVID, he hung in there. He would call every other day — and he did everything that was asked of him.” At Solita’s House, Jackson took homebuyer education classes. “I didn’t know a lot about things like equity,” says Jackson, “and Ms. Bonner was teaching me about the whole process.”

“I take my customers through this process in steps. I am their biggest advocate,” says Bonner. “If you inundate first-time buyers with too much information at once, they become overwhelmed and want to give up. In the most basic terms, I explain to them, ‘You pay, you stay — you don’t, you won’t.’”

Part of the process, in Jackson’s case, was understanding what help he was entitled to. It turned out to be significant. He ultimately qualified for $30,000 in down payment assistance from the City of Tampa, another $30,000 toward his down payment from the East Tampa Community Reinvestment Act, $2,500 from the builder and over $15,000 in assistance from Bank of America — in all, more than $75,000 in grants, incentives and other financial concessions.

“I couldn’t believe it when I received the first grant and then another,” says Jackson. “I never thought I could get that kind of money to help me buy a house.” And because Jackson took budgeting so seriously, he was able to set aside more than $19,000 while the homebuying process unfolded, so that he had a savings cushion by the time he closed on his newly built home in March 2022.

Even with the kind of assistance Jackson received, the path to becoming a homeowner can still be challenging, Bonner notes. In addition to navigating home prices and interest rates, potential buyers need to meet certain income and debt requirements, and they should be mindful of the potential for things like rising property taxes and steeper insurance premiums. Still, adds Bonner, “Mr. Jackson is a prime example that this process works.”

He’s fully in agreement and adds, “I thank God I was able to get this because I grew up here — and I just love living here.”

The support for community housing organizations is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country.

Learn more about the bank’s efforts to support its customers in finding affordable housing.


Explore more

Man holds young girl in front of house

An accessible path to home ownership

A Richmond, Virginia housing organization has found a way to keep homes affordable today — while securing an accessible path to homeownership for future generations.
Woman smiling outside apartment complex

More than a home

This affordable housing nonprofit in Boston's South End offers food, health, out-of-school programming and financial literacy to the city's Hispanic-Latino community.
Housing complex in Austin

Working to address affordable housing in Austin

See how we’re working with several organizations in the Greater Austin area to mitigate housing insecurity and finance affordable housing projects.
showing element 1 of 3