Prosper Waco program would help families sort out outdated title deeds | Local News

Prosper Waco is raising money for a new title compensation program to help low-income Waco residents whose homes are not legally owned by them.

When an owner dies, a surviving family member can continue to live in the house without officially updating the title to the house, which means that the wealth the house represents is not passed on but the costs of d maintenance are.

Prosper Waco’s three-phase program will connect people with a broker to help them navigate the title clearing process, then help them with home repairs and renovations. The third phase is to help the owner plan their estate and write a will, so that the cycle does not repeat itself when they die.

Prosper Waco Chief of Staff Dexter Hall said he became aware of the problem when he and his mother realized the East Waco home she was living in was still owned by her great-grandfather. mother.

“Really, the end goal is to make sure that we’re able to continue to build generational wealth within our community, and in particular, within our low-to-moderate income community,” Hall said. .

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In 2019, the City of Waco worked with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to commission an economic security study that identified areas where the city could improve. The title correction has emerged as a way to help Waco residents build assets and generational wealth.

“One of the things I started to realize was that it wasn’t just a problem for my mother, who was a kid from East Waco, but also for a lot of our neighbors and other people within our community,” Hall said.

Residents who live in the home but are not listed on the deed cannot use the equity in the home to take out loans for home improvements or other necessary maintenance. This can lead to houses falling apart and becoming uninhabitable.

“A lot of times people would move into homes that weren’t looking to own the house, but to take care of their grandmother or their mother,” Hall said. “When the individual dies, he continues to live there and pay taxes, but in reality the wealth does not belong to him.”

Hall said Prosper Waco reviewed 70,000 McLennan County Assessment District records from the past 15 years, which revealed 413 homes with tangled titles. He said that’s about $71 million in wealth that’s not being passed on to his rightful heirs.

Prosper Waco CEO Suzii Paynter March said the program will offset legal fees and appoint someone to help families navigate the title compensation process.

“Our goal is to work over time to reduce costs in every way, and if we have bands that want to do pro bono things that would be nice too, but we’re not reliant on that,” March said. .

March said the program would increase the number of homeowners in Waco.

“Homeownership is a pathway to some kind of stability in a neighborhood, and that stability is good for the family and good for the city as well,” March said.

She said the program is based on a successful program created by Philadelphia VIP, a nonprofit organization that focuses on legal services. Prosper Waco officially announced the program at an event Thursday, inviting title companies, lawyers, realtors, and government and community leaders to speak about the need for the program. Hall said Prosper Waco plans to soft launch the program by the end of the year.

An outdated title can also prevent residents from qualifying for home repair programs offered by the City of Waco, such as the city’s lead reduction program.

The same goes for local home repair associations for low-income people.

Grassroots Waco manager Mike Stone said outdated titles are a problem for older neighborhoods like those surrounding his office on Colcord Avenue with aging pipes and electrical wiring.

About one in 15 homeowners who apply for a Grassroots Waco roof repair program cannot proceed because their name is not on the deed and the listed homeowner is long dead, Stone said.

“Most of the time the family knows who’s supposed to have the house, but they’ve never done the paperwork,” Stone said.

He said he usually refers these families to Greater Waco Legal Services or other low-cost legal services. The process may take longer if the family cannot agree on who owns the house.

“They have to get all the potential owners to sign documents, and that can be tricky sometimes. It can be very complex,” Stone said. “The worst lot I’ve seen had about 17 (potential) owners, and none of them lived in Texas.”

Stone said Grassroots had tried to sort out vacant land titles the organization wanted to buy in the past, but pursuing living relatives was too cumbersome, so the nonprofit usually waits for a property goes through the foreclosure process.

“It’s a common problem all over Waco, with homes and land,” Stone said.

He said he liked the approach proposed by Prosper Waco.

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