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Thursday September 21 6:31 PM ET
Renters to owners
Inman News Features
While the U.S. homeownership level is near all-time highs, the dream of owning property remains distant for many families.
But for the first time, families receiving rental assistance from the U.S. government will be allowed to use their payment vouchers toward buying a home.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development believes its new program will help about 1.4 million families to buy their own homes.
Twelve families in different U.S. cities were able to buy homes during a similar pilot program last year, HUD said.
The program officially goes into effect next month, October 2000.
According to HUD, families will be able to use their rental vouchers to buy new or existing homes, as well as purchase shares in co-op housing.
Local public housing agencies will oversee the program.
Only families who are eligible for the Section 8 voucher program can participate,
and there are also a few more rules and requirements:
Participating families must be first time homebuyers, have an annual income of at least $10,300 and have one adult member who has been employed for a year (unless the participant is elderly or disabled).
Vouchers – which will be the same amount as if they were used for rental assistance – can be used for 15 years for a mortgage 20 years or longer, and up to 10 years for a shorter-term loan.
No family member can have been a homeowner for three years before entering the program, and no member can have any financial interest in a second home.
All participants must also go to free counseling sessions, where they’ll learn about home financing, housing prices, home maintenance and money management.
Local agencies may require that families attend counseling after they buy their homes.
Some local housing agencies may receive a portion of the home’s equity if the family sells the home within 10 years of purchase, according to HUD.
Families can choose their own lenders, but local agencies will review the lender’s qualifications and loan terms before approving the deal.
The home must undergo two inspections before the sale – one by the local housing agency and the second by a certified home inspector.
The family pays for the inspector.
What happens if the family defaults on the mortgage? Well, they can’t buy another home, but they may still be able to receive rental assistance, HUD said.
As for families who continue to rent under Section 8, HUD recently increased the maximum rent subsidy that they could receive for some high cost areas.
For 450 communities, HUD is increasing its so-called Fair Market Rent.
The agency believes the rise in payments should make 1.4 million more rental units available to low-income families.
In the St. Louis area, payments for a two-bedroom apartment will rise from $519 to $ 556, while in Orange County, Calif., the payments will jump from $990 to $1,046, according to reports.
According to a new report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition called "Out of Reach 2000,"
there is no single city where minimum wage workers can afford the rent for a typical apartment in their communities.
Exactly how many future families will benefit from HUD’s new ownership program seems up in the air, however.
Earlier this year, President Clinton proposed increasing HUD’s budget for 2001 by $6 billion, to $32.1 billion.
But both the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees voted to reduce such a boost, and neither committee is approving any more rental vouchers for next year.
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