Programs help with sting of high down payments, mortgages

KINGMAN – The American dream of home ownership may seem out of reach to many Mohave County residents as the cost of housing continues to rise.

However, three local programs are designed to help low- and moderate-income families realize that dream.

A new county report states that the number of Arizona households able to afford a mortgage for the average single family home sharply decreased from 1970 to 1999.

Dave Wolf, the community services manager in the Mohave County Community Development Department, said families should pay no more that 29 percent of their gross monthly income toward a mortgage payment, which leaves many families without a chance of qualifying for loans.

"Many families don't make enough to qualify for a loan or they don't have good credit," Wolf said.

The down payment required by most banks is also prohibitive for many families.

Three programs available locally are helping residents navigate some of the hurdles that prevent some residents from becoming homeowners.

Homes for Arizonans

"Homes for Arizonans" assists qualified families with money toward a down payment and closing costs and is available through Housing America Corp.

in Kingman.

Organized in 1981 for lower-income families willing to help build their own homes, Housing America's self-help program has assisted more than 60 Kingman families.

In January, Housing America began offering Homes for Arizonans, a program funded by the Arizona Department of Housing.

The program helps first-time homebuyers with loans for closing costs and down payments of up to $20,000.

The no-interest loan needn't be paid back until the home changes title, said Tania Bishop, a counselor with the Housing America Corp.

in Kingman.

The family must still apply to a bank or mortgage company for loan for the remainder of a home's cost and meet the lender's requirements.

A family must also contribute at least 3 percent of the purchase price of the home, including at least $1,000 of their own funds.

The family also must attend a series of home-ownership classes, which are free.

Other requirements specify that the house must be occupied by the family as a primary residence and cannot be rented or left vacant during this period.

The income level to qualify for the program in Mohave County is $31,650 for one person and up to $52,450 for six people.

Housing America program director Craig Nelson said the phone has been ringing constantly with people wanting to apply for the program.

The value of the house purchased cannot exceed $175,000 in Mohave County.

For more information, contact Housing America Corp.

at 718-1888.

Rural Housing Services

Rural Development Service, a division of the U.S.

Department of Agriculture, provides housing assistance through the Rural Housing Services.

The program provides loans in rural areas to qualified persons with "very-low and low" incomes.

Borrowers may buy an existing house and lot or buy a site on which to build a home, according to Rural Housing Services information.

Loans may be made for up to 100 percent of the RHS-appraised value of the site and the new home.

The maximum repayment period is 33 years, or, under certain conditions, 38 years.

When the financial position of the borrower improves, the loan is refinanced through a commercial lender.

A USDA community development specialist usually determines the eligibility of applicants.

For more information, contact the USDA Kingman Service Center at 753-6183.

Family Self-Sufficiency

"There are many families that can sustain and meet their mortgage obligations, but don't have funds for the down-payment and closing costs, which can be $10,000 or more," said Robert Gonzalez, the resource coordinator with the Mohave County Community Development Department.

Gonzalez coordinates the Family Self-Sufficiency Program through the Section 8 program administered by the county.

One of several Mohave County Housing Authority programs, the Section 8 Voucher Program offers rental assistance to low-income families that qualify.

The subsidy is tied to the tenant, not the housing unit, and as long as a family meets low-income guidelines.

Families can stay on the program indefinitely.

The five-year Family Self-Sufficiency Program for Section 8 families affords participants the opportunity to complete schooling and training while rent is subsidized.

As an added bonus, an escrow account is set up and money is deposited into it on a monthly basis as the participants' incomes increase, Gonzalez said.

It is an incentive for people to get off welfare and work toward buying their own home, he said.

Some families have accumulated $10,000 or more, which may be used as a down payment to purchase a home.

For more information, call Gonzalez at 753-0723.