Home loan help available for first time buyers

Area home buyers can get interest-free, payment-free loans up to $10,000 through a down payment assistance program, one of several programs offered through the Western Nevada Development District.

First-time homeowners who qualify for a loan would not have to pay it back until they sell or move from the home.

"There's been all kinds of economical development programs out there to help businesses," district executive director Mary Lou Bentley said. "What this does is help make sure the people who would work for those businesses can buy homes."

The Down Payment Assistance Program is a loan, not a grant, she explained, and the paperwork is like a second mortgage. It is called a "silent second" because no principal or interest payments are required as long as the original borrower occupies the home.

Bentley said the assistance is not specifically aimed at low-income buyers.

"There are loan programs for very low-income people, for seniors, for people with disabilities. What hadn't been done was to help the kids that fell in the middle," she said. "That's where this program comes in."

The program is open to residents of Carson City and Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Mineral, Pershing and Storey counties who:

-- Have not owned property for three years (considered first-time home buyers).

-- Can provide 1 percent of the purchase price.

-- Can or have qualified for a traditional first mortgage.

-- Whose income is at or below 80 percent of the respective county's median income.

The program had previously been available only in Carson City, where 65 home purchasers have been helped through it over the past five years, she said. Now that the district is administering it for the Western Nevada HOME Coalition, residents of all seven counties can benefit.

About $100,000 is available for loans in Carson City through July 1, with another $100,000 for the other six jurisdictions until then. She said the district has three loan packages pending in Churchill County, two in Douglas, one in Lyon and 10 in Carson City.

"But we'd really like to see this program used. If there's been lots of demand, the district's board can put as much of their budget into it as they want," Buckley said. She said another $55,000 has been earmarked for Carson City after July 1, but that the HOME coalition gets $500,000 a year to put toward affordable housing in the area.

"You can't do economic development unless you're doing community development at the same time. If you don't have housing, schools and stores, people won't come," Bentley said.

"If any of the counties are to develop economically, they need a labor force. People have to have homes. If we can offer this incentive to encourage people to come from Reno to Fernley to help them get a home, hooray! Hooray!"

The down payment assistance program can help in the purchase of a single-family stick-built home, a condominium or a mobile or modular home that is converted to real property. It can help pay the down payment, closing costs or a combination.

When the home is later sold, refinanced or passed on through an estate, the down payment loan is repaid to the program and can be reinvested in another loan, she said.

Bentley said area Realtors and mortgage lenders are being informed about the program so applicants can contact them for information or call the WNDD office at (775) 883-7333.

Other affordable housing programs supported through loans from WNDD and the HOME consortium include 11 low-cost rental units in a 24-unit apartment complex being completed in Dayton, low-cost rentals in the Yerington Gardens apartments; an affordable apartment complex at South Lake Tahoe partially funded with a $700,000 loan and site improvements at the self-help housing project in Douglas County, for which Citizens for Affordable Housing received $227,000.

Other projects included funds provided to the Nevada Rural Housing Authority to help subsidize rent for seniors and people with special needs and $125,000 set aside for a program to provide accessibility improvements for people with disabilities.


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