Saving Homes, Protecting Families: A Partnership Driving Results
By: Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director for the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center
The Generational Poverty Law Project, funded by The Junior League of Atlanta Inc. (JLA) Centennial Grant, aims to assist low-income multigenerational families preserve their homes and build stronger financial foundations. The Generational Poverty Law Project ( the Project), is a partnership between the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center (the Center), Atlanta Legal Aid Society (Legal Aid), and Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta (PBPA). The Project has selected neighborhoods (Cascade Heights, Dixie Hills, East Point, Oakland City, Penelope Neighbors, West End Park and Westview) with high rates of homeownership and multigenerational families for targeted, pro bono legal services to identify, protect and build clients’ limited assets and financial resources. The partners provide residents and the nonprofits serving them with outreach, educational resources and online PBPA trainings on homeownership, estate planning, home loss prevention and heirs property.
Heirs property refers to a home or land that passes from generation to generation without a legally designated owner, resulting in divided ownership among multiple relatives. Owning heirs property limits a family’s ability to make home improvements, build generational wealth, and significantly impedes neighborhood revitalization, resulting in blight. The Center is a nonprofit law firm that helps remediate and prevent heirs property. The Center has seen firsthand the impact of the Project on multigenerational families in Atlanta. At the height of the real estate bubble, Mrs. Donnelly* was targeted for a predatory reverse mortgage. Her children learned of the reverse mortgage only after their mother passed and when the mortgage company began threatening foreclosure. Center attorneys worked with the Donnelly children to probate their mother’s estate, while Legal Aid worked to forestall the foreclosure and secure refinancing. The Donnelly children now have a clear title, are out from under a predatory mortgage, and have estate plans which will help them pass the equity in their home to future generations.
Ms. Carter* was referred to the Center after learning of housing code violations on her deceased mother’s home. She did not realize her brother had recorded a defective deed putting the title in her name. Ms. Carter cured the code violations and began receiving letters offering to pay cash – typically $10,000 – for the property. Center staff helped Ms. Carter resolve the title issue and advised her to list the property with a reputable real estate agent. She ultimately sold her home for $50,000 and the Center drafted an estate plan for Ms. Carter that will protect the proceeds for her family for years to come..
Results like these are a direct result of the Project’s innovative approach to helping families achieve self-sufficiency and build generational wealth through homeownership. This Project and its impacts are the direct result of JLA’s generous support.
For additional information, please email [email protected] or contact Skipper G. StipeMaas at 706-424-7557.
*name changed to protect client’s identity