Housing Success Stories: Philadelphian buys childhood home of 50+ years

A Philly native promised his mother that he wouldn’t lose the family home after she became seriously ill.

Dwayne Fair has lived in the same house in North Philadelphia for more than 50 years. His mother rented it with assistance from the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), raising Dwayne and his seven brothers and sisters there. “Mom was a substitute teacher and had an open-door policy for everybody,” he says.

“We were a very close-knit family with lots of cousins, and our neighborhood was an extended family. If you were hungry, we would feed you, and if you were thirsty, we’d give you something to drink.”

When Dwayne’s mom became seriously ill in 2012, she asked him to promise not to lose the house. “After my mom died, I just took a 180-degree turn about life in general and started looking at things differently,” he says.

“Losing the house would have been like cutting off my arm. There are so many great memories here.” Dwayne eventually decided he wanted to purchase the home and began attending PHA workshops on homeownership. PHA connected him with Clarifi, where he felt an immediate connection with counselor Charles Barnett.

“Honestly, I had never thought about my credit before or even knew what a credit score was. Charles explained everything in simplest form,” Dwayne said. “He was like a big brother to me, and with him, there were no stupid questions.”

Because Dwayne had some home remodeling experience, Charles suggested he sign up for the Trades for a Difference program, which works to bring more men and women of color into skilled trades. In fall 2019, Dwayne completed the program and became a certified electrician—a key step toward a more reliable
income. He was soon hired as a building manager by the District Council 33 Union.

He spoke with his counselor monthly to stay on track financially and never missed a meeting.

“Charles worked with me on budgeting and really stayed on top of me,” he said. “He gave me a book of information about what to do and when to do it. I appreciated that wholeheartedly.”

Dwayne persisted with the plan for nearly two years and the effort paid off: He qualified for a mortgage and purchased the home from PHA in March 2021. He lives there with his nephew, but his siblings are all close by and thrilled that the home has remained in the family.

“Meeting Charles through Clarifi, and then the conversations we had and the relationship we built, it was almost like I had known him all my life,” Dwayne said. “He stuck with me and was always there to answer my calls. And he still is.”