Emporia City Manager William Johnson discusses benefits of owning a home during the Financial Summit at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church.

A high rate of homeownership in a city is usually healthy for the municipality. It is a quest City Manager William Johnson is working to bring to Emporia.

An astounding 66% of Emporia City residents are renting. It is the highest rate of rentals for any city in Virginia. Johnson said that can change during a recent Carolyn Carey sponsored financial freedom summit at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church.

“Don’t be afraid to own your own home,” Johnson said. “One of the best investments you can make is buying your own home because it is yours.”

Johnson said he recently attended a First Time Homebuyer Program. A citizen told him they were renting the same house their mother and grandmother had rented. Johnson said that is a house that has been paid for three times over.

The First Time Homebuyer Program is one of two the city is urging residents to entertain using to purchase a home. A second is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program. The First Time Homebuyer Program assists those who qualify with a credit score of 620 or better.

“You can buy your home for no money down, or very little down,” Johnson said. “Most banks offer that program. Now USDA has a program that doesn’t focus so much on your credit score or FICA score. They focus on your ability to pay your bills.”

A history of paying bills such as electric, cable, and the phone will be checked. If one is deemed a reasonable risk, the home buying door opens.

The city manager emphasized caution. If one is approved for a home loan, make sure it is affordable.

“Let’s say you qualify for a $350,000 house,” Johnson said. “Why would you do that? You don’t need 6,000 square feet, six bathrooms, and a five-car garage.”

Johnson said an unaffordable home leaves the homeowner with less money to spend, save, and invest. By being disciplined and purchasing an affordable home, one sets themselves on a path to upgrading to a better home in the future.

Once a home is purchased, the homeowner must pay the property taxes and mortgage to keep the house.

The home buying programs available in Emporia-Greensville and Southside Virginia are in place. Johnson said now is the time citizens of Emporia begin the process of buying a home.

“You can own a house if that’s what you desire, especially now,” he said.