You could say Christmas came early for this Atlanta firefighter. Despite his busy schedule as a full-time working, single father of two, Jerel C. recently graduated from nursing school this December. Additionally, earlier this year, Jerel became a first-time homeowner with help from a $25,000 award grant from Atlanta Housing’s Down Payment Assistance (DPA) program.

“It feels great now that it’s mine,” Jerel says about purchasing the home he had previously been renting. “My decision to pursue homeownership came around November of last year when I suddenly found out the landlord was looking to sell the property…I had a decision to make, and it was an easy one for me since I always hoped to own the property one day.”

With AH’s DPA program, the dream of homeownership is now a reality for many low- to moderate-income workers. After meeting program requirements, first-time homebuyers can receive up to $20,000 towards down payment assistance and closing costs. Veterans, educators, healthcare professionals and public safety officers, like Jerel, are eligible to receive up to $25,000. The DPA program has already awarded more than $2.3 million in assistance to 119 homebuyers since the start of the 2022 fiscal year (FY22: July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022). With a total program budget of $5.1 million for FY22 alone, an additional 142 homebuyers are projected to close by the end of FY22.

“As a former Atlanta Housing recipient, I first became aware of the program through the newsletters that they usually sent out to us,” Jerel recalls. “Just the thought brings back memories and makes me reflect to that time, picking up the article thinking one day I hoped to be in those shoes.”

Now firmly in the shoes of a homeowner, Jerel strongly advocates the DPA program to anyone looking to pursue ownership and reap its benefits of intergenerational wealth and long-term affordability. As a lifelong Atlanta native, he feared rapidly rising rents within the metro would eventually price him out of the city where he lived and worked.

“It has never been my choice to leave my city. I grew up here. My family, friends and neighbors still stay here and their family, friends and neighbors as well,” he says. “I love this city and will continue to do everything that I can for it and the people in it. I serve this city currently as a firefighter and future nurse. I’m elated, I was able to stay through it all.”

Now Jerel, his 13-year-old son, and 8-year-old daughter proudly celebrate their first holiday season as owners of their three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom Atlanta home. And as a new owner, he looks forward to adding more personal touches to his home and recreating more holiday memories for years and years to come.