The Joys of Homeownership

Posted on May 31, 2017 by Tommy Fijacko

There is a familiar expression which most homeowners have heard and undoubtedly said in moments of frustration: “Ah, the joys of homeownership!” When you buy a place to call your own, you sign up for the upkeep and repairs. The air conditioning breaks, the roof leaks, and the weather always seems to find new ways of causing problems.

The joys of homeownership, indeed.

The line playfully stems from a more important truth, however. There is real joy in owning a home, and people are willing to put forth more than just dollars to make it their own. When they do, individuals, families, and neighborhoods are all transformed. This is a reality that ACTS Housing, a Stand Together Foundation Catalyst serving diverse Milwaukee families looking to buy homes, works to make possible every day.

How Do They Do It?

Imagine entering a house with “good bones” that otherwise requires many improvements. Having cash to buy it outright—in the instance of foreclosed homes, this can be as low as $3,500—isn’t enough to prevent feeling overwhelmed. Traces of doubt creep in. What does the house need to get to code? Who are the trusted contractors and handymen who can help? How much will renovations cost? How long will they take? How does the buying process work? Can I afford all the renovations?

ACTS Housing, which predominantly serves low-income families, offers four core services: one-on-one financial and credit counseling, home brokerage, home-rehab counseling, and rehab mortgage lending to support required renovations to make homes safe, sanitary, and secure, particularly in cases of formerly vacant or vandalized foreclosures. Through the efforts of these teams, the organization demystifies what can often be a stressful and confusing process. They work with homebuyers from start to finish, from looking at homes, to buying, to renovating and moving in.

A Partnership with ACTS Housing

I’m familiar with the peaks and valleys of the home buying process and the sense of self-worth that comes when you experience all the positive emotions at closing. I’m proud to be working with ACTS Housing as they help others realize similar dreams.

Through our partnership, Stand Together Foundation is helping ACTS optimize its internal operations so that they can continue delivering an outsized impact to its community. Along the way, we are helping them codify their model and processes, so that their successes can one day be replicated in different cities, by them or by others. The ACTS team is documenting and meaningfully incorporating their organizational vision into their day-to-day, creating core values that unify the team around shared beliefs, addressing opportunities to update their technology…and more. Our approach allows us to continually uncover new opportunities and challenges to work on together. By understanding that the groups we partner with are experts in their fields and we only help enable their continued growth through capacity building, a productive collaboration like this is possible.

Why It Matters

We’re excited to invest in ACTS Housing. Their model helps transform the future of families and has a ripple effect on communities. Since 1992, they’ve helped more than 2,200 families invest in their neighborhoods and save hundreds of dollars each month compared to rental costs. That is 7,600 individuals, most of them kids, who now get to experience the security and comforts of their own homes. Parents, too, feel dignity and achievement, especially considering any sweat equity contributed through renovations. With cost savings, they use their money to send their kids to college and open small businesses. You can see that beyond investing dollars and time into their new homes, they also proudly take ownership over their community. Take the story of Patryce, a 30-something mother of four, who in August 2015 bought a home and is now renovating it through ACTS Housing. “I feel accomplished, I feel strong…I think I feel like I did when I graduated. This is mine and nobody can come take this. I did this.”

Truly, the joys of homeownership.


Tommy Fijacko manages a portfolio of partners and works as a primary contact on designing organizational development strategies. Tommy came to Stand Together Foundation from LivingSocial, where he managed operations and operations strategy. He is a graduate of American University, where he majored in political science with a specialization in American government. Outside of the office, Tommy likes to read fiction, write, and explore the DC area with his wife, Samantha.