Simon and Sophia Bruinsma hovered over the scrumptious-looking cake like vultures eyeing carrion, waiting for their parents to give them the OK to pick up their forks. They couldn’t wait any longer for a nice-sized piece, just like they couldn’t wait any longer for a nice-sized house to live in after years of cramped rental quarters in Mill Valley.
The cake said, “Welcome to Your New Home.”
Simon, Sophia and their parents, Theo and Meili, were joined on Aug. 4 by officials celebrating the Bruinsma’s new townhome in the Crossroads neighborhood of Novato. The family’s ability to purchase the home was made possible by a special collaboration between , and the . It was only the second Novato home purchased under a program in which former bank-owned properties are bought, repaired, dressed up and sold to a family in the market for an affordable house. The first one was a Habitat for Humanity project on Center Boulevard that was sold to a family in 2010.
Theo Bruinsma and his family lived in an affordable housing rental in Mill Valley before moving into their new home in July. Right before he sliced pieces of cake for his kids and about a dozen guests — and got scolded for making them too big — he talked about how thankful he was for the assistance in finding the two-story townhome just west of Highway 101.
“We wouldn’t haven’t known how to do this as first-time homebuyers without all this help,” he said. “We were guided step by step through the process. I don’t know how people do it.”
Theo Bruinsma, who works for the Department of Homeland Security division at San Francisco International Airport, thought he would never become a homeowner. He’d lived 20 years at the complex near Goodman Building Supply in Mill Valley, a complex that has some government-subsidized Section 8 units. He and Meili had lived there for 13 years, most of the time with their kids and more recently with Meili’s parents from China.
“We had been looking for something affordable for a long time,” Meili Bruisma said. “We were going to keep looking until we found a deal. We’re a working family, a regular decent family, and we only had the ability to pay a certain amount. We looked at homes that cost $500,000 but needed $300,000 to fix them up. We could not afford that.
“Then we found Northbay Family Homes and they helped us.”
The Marin Housing Authority referred the family to Novato-based Northbay Family Homes, which has helped almost 10,000 people move into more than 4,000 homes in the North Bay since it was founded as a nonprofit in 1978, according to its website. Many of the homes made local living possible for families who would otherwise been renters or had to commute long distances to work.
In 2010, Wells Fargo made a below-market-rate $500,000 loan to Northbay Family homes and the Marin Community Foundation provided a $250,000 grant so NFH could purchase real-estate-owned properties in Marin County, rehabilitate the properties and sell them to residents of low to moderate incomes.
The Bruinsmas worked with loan official Jodi Fischer from Wells Fargo to make the financing work for them, and Fischer was there at the party along with several other officials from the bank. With Marin Community Foundation’s director of housing Kathleen Harris and Northbay Family Homes founder and CEO Clark Blasdell looking on, NFH special projects director Pamela Asselmaier made a short speech to congratulate the family and commend the teamwork that allowed the purchase to take place. She pointed out that about half of the foreclosed homes in Marin were in Novato.
“We looked at all the foreclosures happening around this area and decided we would be a player in this,” Asselmaier said. “We are so fortunate to have these partnerships with Wells Fargo and Marin Community Foundation. Theo and Maili, I feel like you’re more friends of ours than clients. We are so proud to have helped you move into your new home.”
Also at the housewarming party, the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation presented an additional $15,000 check to Northbay Family Homes for future projects.
Meili Bruinsma watched her husband place a new gift — a colorful welcome mat — outside the back door and was asked what she likes best about her new home. After saying she has enjoyed meeting her neighbors and being so close to , she said, “I like the quiet.”
For another story on the Bruismas’ saga, click here.