More cash poured into program to help low-income home buyers

Grant gives $300k for housing in Juneau

Posted: Friday, January 07, 2000

There's more money available this year in a program that helps low-income people in Juneau buy homes.

Housing First, a local nonprofit organization, will be administering an Alaska Housing Finance Corp. grant that will provide $300,000 worth of housing assistance for low-income residents of Juneau and $100,000 for residents of Sitka.

Last year Housing First received $250,000 in Home Opportunity Program funds for Juneau, which helped 18 individuals and families buy homes.

``We hope to improve on that number in 2000,'' Housing First President Robin Gilcrist said in a news release.

Participants can receive help with the down payment, closing costs and bringing the purchase price down to a level they can afford. The total loan package per family could be up to $25,000, depending on income level. The lower the income, the more money a person can borrow.

``It is a great deal,'' said Betsy Longenbaugh, administrator of the program for Housing First.

Loans can be made for single-family homes, attached houses, mobile homes and condominiums. However, a home must meet some safety standards and be occupied by the seller.

People don't have to be first-time home buyers to be eligible for funding, but there are income limits. Single people can make up to $34,550 and still qualify, while households with children can earn more money, up to $65,150 for a family of eight.

If people are on the borderline of qualifying based on income they should apply, anyway, Longenbaugh said, because the federal income limits change each year. When the new limits come out toward the end of February, more people may qualify.

The loans are interest-free and can be forgiven if the buyer remains in the home. If $15,000 or less is borrowed, the loan is forgiven after five full years in the house; if more is borrowed, the buyer must live in the home 10 years, according to Housing First.

Housing First is working with two banks in Juneau, National Bank of Alaska and Alaska Pacific Bank. Home buyers must receive mortgages through these banks to qualify for assistance.

The funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date of an accepted earnest money agreement. Last year the funding was exhausted within six months.

Two public meetings are scheduled to explain the program, from 7 to 8 p.m. Feb. 1 and from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Gruening Park recreation room at 1800 Northwood St. near Switzer Creek.

More information is available by attending one of the meetings or calling 364-3573 weekdays. Housing First will begin sending out applications by Jan. 31.

Housing First is one of three organizations in the state chosen to split $1.02 million in federal grant money for the program this year, said Mark Romick, a planner with the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

Grants are also going to a housing organization in Fairbanks and one in Anchorage that provides help for Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna Borough home buyers, he said.

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