County expands low-interest loan program to help homebuyers

October 18, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

With the aid of a private mortgage company, Howard County announced yesterday that it is expanding a low-interest loan program to help lower-income families buy homes in the county.

The 2-year-old program makes loans of up to $6,000 available to prospective buyers who have not owned residential property in the past three years. The money is to be used for down payments and loan closing costs.

County officials and Norwest Mortgage Inc. announced the availability of $600,000 in new funds for the program. Norwest Mortgage Inc., a Des Moines, Iowa-based mortgage loan company, contributed $400,000, and the county added $200,000.

"This really represents the type of collaboration we need between the public and private sector," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said during a news conference.

"Many of our hard-working families cannot afford the American dream," he added.

Yesterday's news conference reflected Mr. Ecker's campaign strategy, in which he has stressed the need for more affordable housing here as a response to charges by his opponent, Susan Gray, that he has supported rampant growth.

Usually, the county simply issues a written statement about money made available through loan or grant programs -- rather than staging a formal news conference.

Mr. Ecker stood with officials from Norwest, County Council chairman C. Vernon Gray and Leonard Vaughan, the county's Housing and Community Development director, to announce the addition of $600,000 to the loan program.

Since the loan program began in 1992 almost 100 homebuyers have benefited -- 27 the first year and more than 60 the second year. With the $600,000 in additional funds, the county will be able to help 100 to 150 more families a year, Mr. Vaughan said.

"We want a person who is really in need to get a house," Mr. Vaughan said.

The biggest problem is that most people cannot afford the down payment, so that is where the loan program helps, he said.

Here's how it works:

An applicant must be a first-time homebuyer, defined as anyone who has not owned a residential property during the three years preceding the loan application.

The applicant's annual income cannot exceed $54,340. And applicants must pay a minimum of $1,000 toward the down payment and closing costs on the home.

The cost of the home cannot exceed $157,000.

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