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Sarasota Family Finds House, Makes it a Home via IDA Program

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United Way Suncoast’s IDA program made home ownership a financially-affordable option for Sarasota’s Cates family.

“A dream is a wish your heart makes” goes the song. In tune with hope and believing, a Sarasota family of six had their dream of home ownership became reality, thanks to United Way Suncoast’s Individual Development Account (IDA) program.

The IDA program has existed in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and having recently expanded to Sarasota County, the Cates family became the first Sarasota success story of the matched savings account program that helps low-income individuals achieve their goals of buying a home, attending school or opening a small business. The program is part of our Financial Stability programming, designed to help adults move past immediate need, including building employment skills, to achieve long-term financial stability.

For George and Stefanie Cates, the road to home ownership was a bumpy ride. They were forced to move several times when the homes they rented either fell into foreclosure or went into short sale; with each move, they had to come up with a few thousand dollars just to relocate. With four children and both parents working two jobs, the Cates struggled to save for a home of their own.

Eventually, Stefanie called Clearpoint, a United Way Suncoast partner, to help build their credit score in order to qualify for a mortgage. Clearpoint referred them to United Way Suncoast’s IDA program, which ultimately led to their new front door.

In the IDA program, eligible participants who save money are rewarded with matching funds. The Cates saved $4,000 and were matched with another $8,000, which meant they could contribute $12,000 to their down payment. As IDA participants, they also received home-buying and financial education for long-term money management skills.

Stefanie finds the IDA program and its results empowering: “To know that it’s your home and that you’ll have something to leave behind with your children [as well as] make memories [is wonderful].” Stefanie also takes pride in the stability that it offers the family, with the consistent moving that occupied so much previous time no longer being a factor.

In referencing the IDA program, Mireya Eavey, United Way Suncoast’s Sarasota Area President, said that “our commitment to this community has never been stronger. The money raised in Sarasota is invested right here in the community. Thanks to the generosity of donors, we are privileged to continue to make an impact in so many ways.”