David and Ursula have big plans to use their extra income on home improvements and sending their kids to college.

Zero. That is how much David and Ursula Hernandez owe on their home in northeast Portland. Last year, the Hernandez family made their final payment to Habitat, paying off the mortgage on their single-family home, which they bought in 1994.

When the family moved to Oregon in the early 1990s, the only place for them to live was in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with Ursula’s sister. After living there for over a year, Ursula and David managed to move their family into an apartment. The couple constantly feared for their children’s safety and moved three times in under three years.

“Every night something different would happen,” said Ursula. “It would be a shooting in the park across the street or police coming to the apartment next door.”

With their mortgage staying steady for the past 16 years, Ursula and David have been able to make financial decisions that have allowed them to keep paying their mortgage and still support their family of five children.

“We’re all done paying,” said Ursula. “We never have pay to live in our home again.”

Ursula, who recently got laid off from her job, feels fortunate that in a time when many families have lost their homes, they can stay in their home and keep their family stable.

“We have faced the same hardships as others but have been able to keep our home,” said Ursula. “But only because it remained affordable until we paid it off.”

Portland’s King neighborhood, where the Hernandezes live, currently has an 18% foreclosure rate. This rate is higher than the 14% foreclosure rate in Multnomah County and the 15% foreclosure rate in Oregon.

Ursula says the stability of owning a home has been great for the family and allowed their children to stay in the same school system throughout their education. Ursula is proud when she talks about her oldest son, who is now attending Seattle University.

“Habitat has really changed our lives,” said Ursula. “When we first started out, David was only making six dollars an hour while I raised the kids. Habitat made the monthly payments affordable so we had the money to pay the mortgage and to spend on our kids.”

The Hernandez family recently repainted the exterior of their home and hopes to use some of their extra income to make other home improvements and send their younger kids to college.

“I am really happy because we love our home,” said Ursula. “We are rooted here and our best memories are here. If it wasn’t for Habitat, we wouldn’t have all the good things we have now.”