Longtime Russell Neighborhood Resident Realizes Homeownership Dream on Cedar Street

In the Russell neighborhood of West Louisville, Cedar Street continues to welcome new homeowners to the community, thanks in part to a collaborative effort between Community Ventures and the City of Louisville, NeighborWorks America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Republic Bank. Through these generous funders, CV can help first-time homebuyers purchase homes in the West Louisville community. Cedar Street’s newest resident is Naela Serikali, a longtime resident of the Russell neighborhood and Regional Program Manager for the Division of Family Resource and Youth Services Center. Naela recently purchased a two-story, three-bedroom home, finally achieving her dream of becoming a homeowner.

Naela was on the path to homeownership for the last decade. She started working with a mortgage company but kept running into a brick wall – her student loan debt. For years she worked on improving her credit score, paying bills on time, and ensuring her financial strength would give her the best chance of securing a loan. She was on track to qualify for a mortgage until the pandemic hit, putting her in an unexpected financial strain and jeopardizing her dream of homeownership.

“I have lived in the Russell area all of my life, and I keep up with what’s going on in the community, so I knew about Community Ventures and what they were doing in the area.” One day, she happened to drive by Cedar Street again and saw a sign advertising the project, and she decided to give it a shot. “That’s when I talked to Myron Agnew at [CV]. He put me in touch with Barb Harper, and she gave me really good information to help position me as best as possible. She had a lot of information that a lot of people don’t always have access to.” Naela says the guidance she received at CV helped to make it all possible. “With the mortgage company and the realtors, I wasn’t sure if they were fully invested in what was best for me or for them. With Community Ventures, they seemed like they cared about what was in my best interest. When I met Myron, I felt like he really wanted me to achieve my goals as much as I wanted to achieve them. And with Community Ventures, he had the resources to help me.”

Because she had been on the homeownership journey for a decade, Naela had a pretty good idea of what she was looking for in a home. “This particular house had what I wanted – a front porch, a back porch, two stories, and move-in ready.” While Naela worked with Myron Agnew on the house inspection, she also received financial counseling through eHome America’s online Homebuyer Education course. “There were some things [the course] helped me focus on, like what to look out for, how to budget, what to plan for once you get the home. The most important thing I learned was the importance of having a budget and being realistic about your expenses so that you can buy a home you can afford. Regardless of what the bank says you can afford, most people are thinking – ‘can I really afford this?’”.

Now that Naela has achieved her homeownership goal, she reflects on this milestone with gratitude. “It felt like [this house] was built for me. I really enjoy the master suite. I saw the big mirror, the jacuzzi tub, the color of the walls, the updated appliances – I just saw it all and knew this house was for me. And you know that you’re building wealth for your family because you own this. I think about how I can leave this to my children.” While the home is just what she was looking for, she also celebrates the neighborhood she gets to call home. “I grew up in Russell. I live here by choice. I have several degrees and could probably live anywhere I wanted to, but I wanted to live here. I wanted to be able to give back to my community.”

Naela also serves as a member of the Russell for Russell Resident Coalition, an organization created and funded by the Louisville Metro Government. The Coalition is putting the development of the Russell neighborhood back into the hands of the community by looking at alternative ways to collaborate with funders to allow residents to purchase property, get residents involved, and pool money to support neighborhood development. “I want to see thriving businesses. I want to see more black and brown people owning businesses and owning homes. I want to see these vacant lots being developed. The Russell neighborhood has a rich history of entrepreneurship going way back. White and Black Americans co-existing, Black-owned businesses operating and thriving…that’s what people want to see back. They don’t want homes to become unaffordable – they want these opportunities for the people who are already here.”

If you would like to learn more about building a new home on Cedar Street, please contact Myron Agnew at magnew@cvky.org or Lew Whalen at lwhalen@cvky.org. You can also visit CedarStreetWestLou.com to learn more!

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