How I Got a Grant to Buy an Apartment Complex

Life can change in an instant.  Sometimes it just takes a while for that instant to arrive.

I had put my son in his stroller, and headed down on to the hiking trail that surrounds Austin’s Town Lake.  The five-mile walk around that section of the lake had become my daily ritual.  I loved watching the rowers glide across the water as the sun rose higher in the eastern sky.  I loved the backdrop provided by the tall buildings downtown, and the subdued hum of traffic on the bridges.  Even now, at the beginning of autumn, I could smell new mown grass and follow along pathways sheltered by tall deep green foliage.  An occasional fisherman would look up from his place on the shore and wave me good morning.  From time to time, Matthew would extend his little arms and call out to birds searching for their breakfast.

My time was my own now.  A year and a half earlier I had left my job in a public agency   and opened my own consulting business.  I had been writing grants for years, and with my expertise in affordable housing, I soon had a few clients.  Among them was the developer of an apartment complex for senior citizens.  I was excited about the project, and enjoying the challenge of helping the developer put it together and convince the city government to provide funding.  Because I believed in the project, I accepted minimal upfront compensation, with the rest of my fee contingent on securing the grant we were seeking.

Money was not pouring in, but I was making a living.  I had a group of wonderful friends, a comfortable apartment, and a dependable car.  I had been devastated when Matthew’s father had left before he was born, but I was recovering and building a life on my own terms. 

Matt is my “second family.”  Twenty years earlier, I had been a single mother with two small children, and life had been a constant struggle.  It took me years of part time classes to finish my degree.  Even working two and sometimes three jobs at a time, I barely kept food on the table.  I can’t remember how often we lived without a phone, or lights or heat. Worst of all, I never seemed to have enough time to just enjoy my older son and daughter.  I was often deeply depressed, and only my devotion to my children kept me moving forward.

During those twenty years, however, I began what has been a lifetime of spiritual study.  I started writing down my vision of the life I desired.  I made “treasure maps” with pictures cut out of magazines.  I trained myself to focus on the aspects of my life for which I was grateful, and not to dwell on my troubles.  The results were gradual.  I hadn’t experienced a dramatic change in my circumstances.  It was more as though I had been gradually ascending a staircase, with each step bringing me to a happier, more prosperous level.

That day, walking around the lake, I was thinking of the various challenges presented by the senior housing project, and the ways I was going to overcome each one.  I’m a project person, and my creative juices were flowing.  Perhaps it was a confluence of the exercise endorphins, glorious nature all around me, and the creative high, that generated the perfect moment for that flash of inspiration.  I only know that suddenly, with an almost physical force, an idea came into my head.  

I could create a housing project for single parents and their families, and I could get a grant to make it happen.

The idea was so stunning, and so completely new and unexpected, I had to sit down on a nearby bench.  I was literally unable to stay on my feet.  Thoughts began swirling in my mind.  Throughout my professional life, I had worked with women and children, and I knew firsthand the difficulties faced by low-income single parents.  I was a counselor, and I understood how to provide social services.  I was in fact the correct person to do this project.  And most importantly, I knew how to get it funded.

After that, things began to move quickly.

I found an apartment complex in foreclosure, and convinced the bank that owned it to accept $500 earnest money for a long term option on the property.  I found a contractor who agreed do the necessary renovations. I stayed up all night weeks at a time, developing plans and writing financial projections. During the final couple of months before the funding decision was made, I started running out of money and even applied for food stamps.

I was obsessively devoting myself to a single endeavor, working with tunnel vision. To some of my friends and family, it looked as though I had stepped off that staircase to prosperity.  They worried I was putting all my eggs in a single basket, and wondered what would happen to me if the funding was denied. 

After six long months of hard work, the day of decision arrived.  I sat in City Council chambers, waiting for the vote that would decide my future.  Several hours passed as Council Members discussed road development and benefits for City employees. Important, of course, but not the reason I was sitting in that audience, my hands clasped tightly together to hold them still.  

Finally, the Mayor looked down at the agenda, and began to read the names of the proposed affordable housing projects.  The first two were approved. Two others failed.  Then he requested a vote on my client’s senior housing project.  Yes, it passed! 

I was grateful, but still shaking with anticipation.  I couldn’t help wondering, what if my project was not approved?  Where would I go in my life?  Would I lose my one big chance to have the future I had dreamed of, and written about in my journal, and affirmed to myself every day?

Then I heard the Mayor ask for a vote on Friendship Place Apartments.  One by one, the Council Members responded, then the Mayor added his own, “Aye.”  By a unanimous vote, my project was approved. 

 A few weeks later, I had a check in my hand: a 100% grant to close the purchase and pay for all the remodeling.

 I owned Friendship Place for eight years.  During that time we served several hundred low-income families.  We provided a childcare center, counseling groups, and referrals to job training.  I was able to spend time with Matthew, while helping other mothers and children.

 Of course, I moved much further up that staircase of abundance. I eventually remarried a wonderful man, and today we have a beautiful home and a joyful family life.  We work for ourselves; we travel and do the things we have both always wanted to do.

Prosperity is a process of asking for and believing in and accepting our good.  For most of us, prosperity does not happen all at once.  What often does happen in an instant, when we’re ready, is that flash of Divine inspiration.  Then it is up to us to take inspired action. 

To learn more about how you can access government real estate grants and low-cost loans, check out our program, The New American Land Rush: How to Buy Real Estate with Government Money.”

by Jillian Coleman Wheeler


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *