Single father celebrates home ownership

Home purchased through USDA Rural Development direct home loan program

By Rachel Kytonen

Chris Olson, of Cambridge, went through a divorce and worked hard to rebuild his credit. But when the time came for him to purchase a home, he had trouble qualifying for traditional financing.

Chris Olson, pictured with his son Reed, are congratulated by USDA Rural Development Director Colleen Landkamer during a special ceremony Monday, June 20 at Olson’s home. Olson, a single father, purchased his Cambridge home through the USDA Rural Development’s direct home loan program. Also pictured is Jenny Rydberg, USDA Area Specialist, based in Cambridge, who worked one-on-one with Olson throughout the process. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

By chance, when looking online, Olson, a single father, found a Website for the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development. He learned about the USDA’s direct home loan program, and got in contact with the local USDA office in Cambridge.

In May, Olson and his 11-year-old son Reed, were able to move into their new home off Marigold Drive South in Cambridge.

On Monday, June 20, Olson was recognized by USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer during a special June Home Ownership Month event at Olson’s home. Olson used Rural Development’s direct home loan program to achieve his goal of home ownership.

“It’s rewarding to see firsthand how USDA Rural Development’s home ownership program have impacted the lives of people like Chris,” Landkamer said. “Home ownership not only gives people a sense of ownership in their community, it also creates jobs and boosts the local economy.”

Olson worked one-on-one with Area Specialist Jenny Rydberg throughout the entire process, and said it was nice to have her and a relator guide him along in the process.

Landkamer stressed the direct home loan program prepares you for home ownership.

“You have to attend a home ownership education class so you’re prepared to be in your home, you’ll know what to expect, we can help you work on any credit issues, finding homeowner’s insurance, and more,” Landkamer said. “Purchasing a home can be a real intricate process, and sometimes you need the professional strength and services of Rural Development. We also provide someone that works directly with you throughout the process.”

Landkamer explained the direct home loan program Olson used to purchase his home is targeted at low-income borrowers unable to qualify for traditional financing. Applicants must meet credit requirements and demonstrate repayment ability. A payment subsidy could lower the interest rate on direct home loans to one percent.

Olson said working directly with Rydberg helped him understand what type of mortgage he could afford so he wouldn’t get himself into a payment he could not afford.

“I’ve seen other relatives of mine get themselves into loans that have huge payments, or balloons, that they can’t get out of,” Olson said.

Landkamer said with the Rural Development program, staff makes sure buyers understand all the aspects of the loan before any paperwork is signed.

Olson said he’s very excited that he is able to provide his son with a nice home that has a garage and a nice deck. The home also has three bedrooms which Olson said is nice when they have company stay.

“It’s sometimes tough being a single father, but it’s only me to take care of him,” Olson said. “It was nice to find out about the USDA program and I hope other people will look into it as well. My rent payment was $70 higher than my mortgage payment. I really love being here and being in my home.”

Olson said owning a home in the Cambridge community gives him a sense of pride in his community, and more willingness to get involved.

Landkamer agreed, and cited research by the National Association of Realtors that says the sale of an existing median-priced home generates over $58,000 in economic activity. This includes over $15,000 in direct real estate industry supports, $5,000 in home furnishings, appliances and landscaping and almost $10,000 in stimulated economic activity.

USDA Rural Development has invested over $1 billion and helped thousands of individuals and families achieve home ownership in rural Minnesota since 2009.

Olson said he is grateful USDA took a chance on him.

“This program made me realize that there are people who will give you a chance as you work on rebuilding your credit,” Olson said. “You rewarded me for rewarding myself. This home is great for myself and my son, and we are going to take good care of it.”

Olson described the program as a “hardworking guy program living on a fixed income.”

“This program has helped my son and I live the American dream that we wouldn’t have been able to live otherwise,” Olson. “This process showed my son that hard work does pay off, and doing the right thing also pays off.”

Rural Development also offers a home loan guarantee program that is intended for median income applicants and “guarantees” loans through traditional lenders such as banks mortgage lenders.

Home repair financing is also available through Rural Development. Low-and very-low income homeowners can receive loans up to $20,000 repayable over 20 years with a one percent interest rate to replace a roof, install a new furnace, replace siding, install windows, pay for utility assessments and make other home repairs. Grants up to $7,500 are available to homeowners over the age of 62 and must be used to remove health or safety hazards.

All of Rural Development’s home loan and repair programs are open to qualified applicants living in a rural community of 20,000 people or less.

For more information on Rural Development visit or call the Cambridge office at 763-689-3354, Ext. 4.