Home HeadQuarters’ Financial Fitness for Homeownership

Expand our Financial Fitness classes to provide more opportunities for underserved communities to build wealth through homeownership.

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  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

State: New York City A: Syracuse 13202, 13203, 13204, 13205, 13207, 13208, 13209, 13210 City B: Auburn 13021 City C: Oswego 13126

Focus Areas (required)

  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started

Home HeadQuarters was founded on 07/30/1997

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)


  • $250k - $500k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)


Twitter URL


Facebook URL


1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

HHQ was founded to expand housing opportunities for the underserved. Ever eager to expand programming to reflect changing needs, financial counseling was added five years ago. Last year, following reports of high concentrations of poverty in our region, the Alliance for Economic Inclusion (AEI) was launched. HHQ, familiar with the power of wealth building through homeownership, recognized new paths to owning a home were needed and secured funding through AEI for a new Lease-Purchase Program. Building on the success of its Financial Fitness classes to help families repair credit to work toward owning a home, HHQ believes scaling these classes to the Lease-Purchase target areas will be a powerful tool in expanding access to the program.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Homeownership is one of the most successful paths for wealth building. Homeowners average a net worth 36 times that of renters (Matthew Desmond, 5/9/17). In CNY homeowners are disproportionately white, with moderate or high incomes. Tightening lending criteria, coupled with historical prejudices in lending make it difficult for lower income households to purchase a home, precluded them from a powerful wealth building tool.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

HHQ has been expanding homeownership opportunities for the underserved since 1996. Despite its diverse programming, gaps exist and HHQ was recently awarded funding for a new Lease-Purchase Program. HHQ will use the funds to rehab homes and lease them to a family, with a portion of their rent reserved for a down payment to purchase the home within three years. The model will work to counter predatory rent-to-own contracts that are popular here and offer a new path to homeownership. Households delay home purchase for a many reason, most significantly poor financial health. To this end, HHQ offers Financial Fitness classes to complement its housing counseling classes. The classes teach money management and strategies to repair credit, however they are only offered in Syracuse. HHQ will use the funds requested to expand its Financial Fitness classes to the three counties where its Lease-Purchase Program will operate. The classes will not be limited to Lease-Purchase participants; however, they will expand the pool of households who may be eligible and support their success in the program, while also improving outcomes for underserved households with other financial goals.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

When “Darius”, a single dad, came to HHQ he knew his credit was poor. He had been using credit cards to stay afloat and to make purchases he couldn't afford, and he wasn’t paying off balances each month. Still, he was shocked to see how low his credit score was. Darius took a Financial Fitness course and continued to meet with a financial counselor at HHQ. With this help, he came up with a plan to pay off his cards and lower his regular use. A year and a half later, Darius' credit score has improved more than 200 points and he's enrolled in a First Home Club to purchase his first home. He plans to complete homebuyer education with HHQ, and may even finance his home with us. HHQ finds this “soup to nuts” approach vastly improves a buyer’s success in achieving and maintaining homeownership and building wealth. To date, HHQ has facilitated 3,858 homebuyers using this model.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Since its founding, HHQ has provided housing opportunities to the underserved, specifically minority and low-income households. HHQ has designed and marketed its services and products to these groups, who have been historically marginalized by lending institutions. In FY2017, 72.8% of clients served through our lending, grant, and housing counseling services were low-income (below 80% AMI). Further, 51.9% identified as a minority, compared to only 15.4% of the population in our service area.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • race/ethnicity
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

HHQ is one of 3 housing counseling entities in CNY. We differ in the linkages we offer to move through the homeownership process. A graduate of homebuyer education can purchase a home HHQ built, using a realtor from our affiliate non-profit brokerage (the only one in CNY), receive a down payment grant and finance their mortgage with us, then return for a home improvement loan if needed. While services can be used individually, HHQ prides itself on this one-stop-shop approach to make home buying as seamless as possible. HHQ’s new Lease-Purchase program is not offered locally by any non-profits.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Since its founding, HHQ has facilitated 3,858 homeowners using the model outlined above, including comprehensive housing and financial counseling. This represents 3,858 households building wealth through homeownership that may not have otherwise been afforded this opportunity. Collectively, HHQ’s programming has made many other contributions toward improving the well-being of our community. A Community Impact statement is included as an attachment detailing these achievements. Regarding financial fitness classes and counseling specifically, since their inception, HHQ has provided these services to 1,184 households, primarily in the City of Syracuse. These financial capability services are relatively new compared to HHQ’s other services, and we look forward to the opportunity to increase their scale by expanding the classes to outlying counties in our service area.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

HHQ intends to scale our impact by expanding Financial Fitness Classes to outlying counties in our service area (Cayuga and Oswego), to coincide with our new Lease-Purchase Program. In 2015, HHQ affiliated with Homsite, a non-profit housing firm in Cayuga County. HHQ already provides housing counseling services based at Homsite and this funding will allow Financial Fitness classes to be added as well. Likewise, HHQ currently provides foreclosure prevention counseling in Oswego County, and has established relationships there that will support the addition of these classes.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Financial Fitness classes are partially self-funded ($10 fee). The balance is paid with grant funding. HHQ has been successful in securing grant funding from multiple sources for its programming, but understands the danger of over relying on public monies. Last year, HHQ began planning a Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI). This SBI model, still in development, will maximize profits through existing and new business lines to fund a greater portion of our activities through these profits.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

HHQ has a staff of 36 (32 FT). HHQ’s CEO founded the organization and has led it since; most of the management team has been with HHQ for 10+ years. We have 4 HUD-certified housing counselors who will lead the proposed classes. The organization is governed by a volunteer board (20 members) from non-profits, banks, and neighborhood residents. HHQ has the capacity to deliver this proposal, and as the need for foreclosure services decline existing staff can continue to absorb increased scale.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
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Attachments (2)

HHQ_Community Impact Statement - All Time.pdf

Home HeadQuarters's Community Impact Statement summarizing our economic impact in our service area during our 20 year history

HHQ_Financial Capabilities_2018.pdf

Financial Capabilities class description and 2018 schedule


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