"For Arlington home buyers, assistance is still available"

Arlington Citizen-Journal, May 23, 2011
By Patrick Walker, Staff Writer

Tired of renting and looking to buy a home? Officials say the Arlington Housing Authority still has funds left this fiscal year to help with down payments and closing costs.

About 25 slots remain for the zero-interest second-lien loans of up to $7,500. Households that have a disabled member or that are moving into a target area could receive $10,000.

The program is one of several that city leaders have launched in recent years to help promote homeownership, said David Zappasodi, executive director of the housing authority.

"There are still families in our community that are in a situation where they have the income to afford to pay the mortgage payments and they can quality for the mortgage, but they just don't have the savings to get over that hurdle to provide the down payment and cover closing costs as this time." he said.

To qualify, households can earn no more than 80 percent of area median income -- about $38,000 for a single person and $54,000 for a family of four. They must also be able to obtain a mortgage, contribute $1,000 toward the purchase, be first-time buyers and attend homeownership workshops, among other criteria.

Repayment is not required if the buyer lives in the home for a set amount of time, usually five years.

Officials with Tarrant County Housing Partnership, which administers the Arlington program and similar ones in other cities, say clients tend to be public servants, young professionals, service and hospitality workers, and single-parent families of all backgrounds who are anxious to become homeowners.

The housing partnership holds free orientation sessions, including one at the Central Library in Arlington on June 8.

"A lot of people are not sure whether they meet the income requirements," said Donna VanNess, president of the housing partnership. "So we go over that with them."

Steve and Celestina Kubicki and their three young boys are set to close on their house in north Fort Worth on May 31. Celestina Kubicki, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas Woman's University, works in the medical field while her husband is in school.

They qualified for $14,999 from Fort Worth's home buyer assistance program, making the amount they'll finance about $88,000.

Just as valuable as the financial help, Celestina Kubicki said, is the counseling for budgeting and improving credit scores.

"Now we have savings, even though money is tight," she said. "We realize how important that is."

That fewer people have taken advantage of the assistance program this year is not a total surprise, VanNess said.

On one hand, she said, the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers is gone and lenders have tightened borrowing requirements. On the other, housing prices are down and there is ample inventory to choose from -- meaning it could be a good