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‘This is my home!’ Pocahontas Middle School counselor is first at HCPS to purchase a home through Henrico program

In April, the Pocahontas Middle School counselor became the first Henrico County Public Schools employee to close on a home as part of the county’s Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors last June and began accepting applications later last year.

Trevor Dickerson

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Grace Fitzgerald has called Henrico County home for most of her life, from her time as a student at Henrico County Public Schools to her now-established career as a school counselor. It was only fitting that Henrico was the place where she became a first-time homeowner — and Henrico helped her do it.

In April, the Pocahontas Middle School counselor became the first Henrico County Public Schools employee to close on a home as part of the county’s Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors last June and began accepting applications later last year.
The Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program was devised to address a shortage of affordable housing throughout Virginia and the rest of the United States. The program, which included an initial investment of $2,000,000, makes homebuying more affordable for eligible employees through a forgivable loan, worth up to $25,000, to go toward a down payment.
Each year an eligible homebuyer remains an employee of the county and occupies their Henrico home, 20% of the loan is forgiven. This means after five years, the loan is 100% forgiven, bridging the affordability gap for those who have an established career — in teaching, transportation, facilities or any other eligible full-time position throughout the school division or county government — but may have felt priced out by the market.
These loans, coupled with ongoing pay raises for county and HCPS employees, are already making homebuying dreams come true.
“When we were leaving and the keys were handed to me, it really hit me. I was like, oh my goodness, I own this, this is mine,” said Fitzgerald, a Mills E. Godwin High School graduate who began her HCPS counseling career at Highland Springs High. “My dad and I opened the door, and I said, ‘This is my home!’ There was lots of dancing.”
As more applications are processed, more HCPS staff members of all ages, experiences, departments and backgrounds are expected to close on their first Henrico County homes. It’s a boon for all of those employees who have contributed and grown within HCPS, as well as any prospective employees who are considering a career with the school division like Fitzgerald did several years ago.
“We just want to help people foster their possibilities, their vision, their goals, and we want to do what we can to assist them,” said Nancy Jones-Oltjenbruns, HCPS’ assistant director of human resources. “I was so excited when we got the word that [Fitzgerald] was approved and that she would be one of the first individuals to receive this forgivable loan. I know this is going to make a big difference in her life and hopefully in her family’s lives as well.”
You can learn about Fitzgerald’s homebuying journey, as well as more information about the Employee Home Purchase Assistance Program, here.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.