American dreamers

The path to homeownership for Minani and Manirakiza Michel has been anything but typical. The couple and their seven children recently left their cramped apartment and moved into a five-bedroom home built by Knoxville Habitat for Humanity with the help of funding from THDA’s Housing Trust Fund. The family also was also able to utilize THDA’s New Start loan program, which enables them to receive a zero percent interest mortgage.

Michel and his wife have lived in Knoxville for the past 13 years, but their journey to becoming homeowners began across the Atlantic Ocean in Africa. Natives of Burundi, the Michels spent 11 years living in refugee camps in Congo and Tanzania in an effort to protect their growing family from the war and conflicts that were taking place around them.

“I’m am proud that we have a place of our own now and we are not moving all the time,” Minani said. “Now this place is mine, and we want to stay here a long time. Now my kids are happy to stay here and not move again, and this house is big enough to give us the room we need.”

After living in a series of cramped apartments, the Michel family found out about Habitat for Humanity through friends in the community who had successfully become homeowners with their help.

Knoxville Habitat’s Trinity Edgar said the funding from THDA played a crucial role in helping the Michel’s home get completed.

“We were able to use that money to help bridge the funding gap that we needed to purchase the property and supplies for their home,’ Edgar said. “Without that funding, they wouldn’t have this new home.”

Each year, THDA awards to the state of Tennessee’s Habitat for Humanity a $550,000 Housing Trust Fund grant, which then is distributed to local chapters, like Knoxville Habitat.

Habitat recipients can also receive a zero percent interest mortgage through THDA’s program, which helps keep their payments manageable and allows them to pay off the loan sooner due to the lack of interest.