By Martin J. Kidston
The First Time Homebuyer Assistance Program has taken hold in Havre, helping middle-to-low income families work their way into the market of purchasing a new home.
The program, which came to Havre in 1992, has helped nearly 50 local residents buy a home within the city limits, says Annmarie Robinson, the housing and community development coordinator at Bear Paw Development Corp.
What started in 1986 as an effort to revitalize the east-end of Havre moved ahead in 1992 when the city received funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Home Investment Partnership Program, otherwise known as HOME.
The HOME program is intended to provide families who cannot pay the down payment and closing costs involved in the purchase of a home. According to Robinson, such expenses can often cost thousands of dollars, putting the dream of home ownership beyond the reach of low- and middle-income families.
It costs $3,000 to $4,000 in cash to move into a house, Robinson said. This program helps them move beyond the initial costs.
According to Robinson, the potential homebuyer applies to the program before the citys housing committee reviews the application. Once approved, Bear Paw Development then advances the down payment and closing costs under the assistance program. But even with the initial costs covered, Robinson said, homebuyers still have to receive a mortgage loan from the bank.
We only provide the down payment and closing costs, Robinson said. The applicants need to get long-term assistance.
Since the programs inception, Robinson said that applicants have defaulted on the loan only twice, and that when the city writes off the loan due to default, it doesnt loose the money because it is guaranteed through HUD.
In order to meet the requirements for the loan program, Robinson said a family of one cannot have an income exceeding $23,350, while a family of eight can have an income no bigger than $44,050.
The applicants cannot have owned a home in the previous three years, or, as Robinson said, the program can be extended to an applicant whose existing home is determined to be beyond rehabilitation.
Besides giving home buyers the chance to solidify their dream of home ownership, the program is intended to increase the number of owner-occupied homes. The premise is that home owners care more for their property when they own it as opposed to renting, which helps revitalize city neighborhoods.