Sarah Morales is an integral part of the Arlington community. She has lived in a three-bedroom apartment in APAH’s Arlington Mill Residences for the past two years with her husband and four children. One of more than 1,000 applicants for 122 affordable units, Morales is extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to live in an apartment where everyone in her family has some breathing room. Prior to moving to Arlington Mill, the whole family lived together in a one-bedroom apartment. “When you’re cramped in a small apartment you have arguments and bickering. We had toddler beds in the living room,” Morales recalls. “Living here has been a blessing to us.”
Morales and her family were committed to staying in Arlington, where they’ve lived since 2008. “We love the school system here, and all the resources for families” she said, and the fact that her job is just a mile away. Morales also values the diversity of the community. Her teenage son is transgender, and faced constant bullying before the family moved to Arlington. “People are so much more accepting here,” she explained.
Despite working in higher education for the past decade, Morales’ salary was not high enough to afford a market-rate apartment big enough to comfortably house her family. She currently works at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) as a financial aid advisor. In recent years she’s taken online classes through Old Dominion University. This fall, she’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree in human services.
“Having a bachelor’s degree opens up a lot of doors,” Morales said. Her own parents did not prioritize education or financial responsibility, but Morales is committed to instilling the value of both in her own children. Her oldest son graduated this spring from NVCC with a degree in engineering and will transfer to Virginia Tech to continue his education.
Morales has taken full advantage of the educational opportunities offered by APAH’s resident services program for families in her building, including the four-month long Money Smarts Pay Program. “We went from having no savings to a nice savings account. When I get my tax refund, I put it in savings. I learned all about credit. I tracked my expenses.”
As part of the course, Morales began saving money for a down payment on a house. “We don’t want to rent forever,” she said. “We want to move up and have that financial stability for when we retire, to have that security of owning a home.”