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Aleece Braziel, Huntsville

Decatur and Huntsville are separated by 30 minutes of interstate driving. But for Aleece Braziel, a single mother of two (6-year-old Autumn and 3-year-old Isaiah) who works full-time while attending college, the commute became too much of a burden.

“I just wanted to be closer to work,” she said. “I got tired of the drive.”

Because she was also tired of renting, Braziel decided to purchase a home in Huntsville closer to her job at an automotive manufacturer. “I’m getting older, and I want to be more established in life besides renting,” she said. “I want to be able to do what I want in my house. I want to put pictures on the wall. I want to be able to paint every room.”

After paying off a few lingering bills to improve her credit rating, Braziel contacted Chad Cantrell of Starkey Mortgage to help her through the homebuying process. Cantrell recommended AHFA’s Step Up homeownership financing in combination with an AHFA-issued Mortgage Credit Certificate.

Step Up is designed for low- to moderate-income homebuyers who can afford a mortgage, but need help with the down payment. The program offers a competitive 30-year fixed interest rate and down payment assistance.

Combining Step Up with Mortgage Credit Certificates give homebuyers like Braziel even greater purchasing power. An MCC is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of up to 50 percent of the mortgage interest paid each year, capped at $2,000 annually. MCCs reduce the amount of federal income tax homebuyers must pay, which in turn increases available income to qualify for a mortgage.

“Before, I didn’t know a lot about buying a home,” said Braziel. “But, Step Up made it easier.”

Today, Aleece is adjusting to life as a homeowner and checking a few home improvement projects off her list.

“It is a lot more work, rather than living in a smaller space and renting,” said Braziel. “I have a lot more space to maintain. It is a lot more work for me, but I’m not complaining!”