"Loan to help homebuyers"

UT-Arlington Shorthorn, June 15, 2011
By Tiffany Todd, Staff Writer

With the help of the Arlington Homebuyers’ Assistance Program, the City of Arlington wants to encourage some of its citizens to make Arlington home. The program offers a no-interest deferred loan of up to $7,500 for qualified first-time homebuyers. The loan will be forgiven after five years if the borrower continues to reside in the home.

“The city leadership has frequently, and for quite a number of years, discussed how we retain UTA graduates in our city,” said David Zappasodi, executive director of the Arlington housing authority and director of community development and planning. “They are some of our finest citizens.”

College Town, UTA, a movement to connect the community to the university, has similar goals.

“AHAP is a nice complement to the College Town, UTA, program,” said Amy Schultz, UTA Communications and Community Relations associate vice president. “For those alumni who chose to live and work in North Texas, the university would be delighted for them to choose Arlington as their residence because they can then continue to enjoy all that the university has to offer. Living in close proximity to UT–Arlington will allow them to attend events, athletic games, take advantage of continuing education opportunities, get involved in local UTA Alumni Association activities and much, much more.”

The Arlington Homebuyers’ Assistance Program is designed to bolster home ownership in the city. The program focuses on Arlington residents who make 80 percent of area median income, which is $38,000 for a single person and $54,000 for a family of four. The Tarrant County Housing Partnership administers the loans.

“We like to describe our clients as mainstream American professionals. We have first-year teachers, service personnel, young families, single mothers and the elderly. This program is perfect for recent graduates,” said Donna VanNess, Tarrant County Housing Partnership president.

The program is beneficial for graduates who can pay a mortgage but are struggling to come up with a down payment.

“I love Arlington,” alumna Shelley Smith said. “I am a second-year teacher and have thought about buying a home, but with my student loans, it will take me a long time to save up for the down payment.”

Participants must first qualify for a mortgage and follow the steps of the home-buying process. To be eligible for the program, they must meet the income requirements and attend an orientation session where they are educated about the program. Additionally, participants attend home buyer educational training, such as budgeting and lender orientation.

“Because of the education, we have very few foreclosures,” VanNess said. “Our clients are educated beforehand, which leads to sustainable homeownership. They become true assets to their neighborhoods and communities.”

Long term, stable and “sustainable” homeownership is what the city is striving to achieve.

“From a city-leadership perspective, it promotes homeownership in the city,” Zappasodi said. “It makes the city a more livable city.”

There is enough money left to help a dozen families before the current program runs out this summer. The city hopes to use all of these funds soon.

“This is an opportunity for city leaders to provide back to the city and our citizens,” said Gerald Urbantke, Arlington marketing communications manager.

For more information about the program, an orientation will be held, in English and Spanish, at 5:30 p.m. July 6 at George W. Hawkes Central Library or visit http://www.arlingtontx.gov/housing/homeownership_fthap.html for further details.