Home, sweet home

Published 8:57 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

By Staff
Program promotes home ownership
Staff Writer
With the help of Washington Housing Inc., the City of Washington is providing an alternative to public housing for some low-income residents.
The nonprofit organization is offering a program — Individual Development Accounts Asset Building Program — to help people save money to make down payments on houses. The program is designed to train participants so they develop homeownership skills, such as making bill payments and maintaining good credit.
Participants are required to attend an education course designed to make them better homeowners and make monthly deposits into a savings account. The deposits must be no less than $50 per month and no more than $200 per month. Once the individual has completed the education course and deposited $1,000 into the savings account, he or she is eligible for up to $4,000 in matching grants through the housing organization.
The money saved is usually used as down payment on a house, but it also may be used to pay closing costs or buy points to lower the interest rate on a new-home purchase, according to Gina Amaxopulos, a volunteer with the organization.
The program, in its fourth year, “has been very successful,” Amaxopulos said.
Tarsha Hopkins recently completed the program and began moving into her new house on Wednesday. With the help of the Washington Housing Authority, the North Carolina Department of Labor and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, Hopkins was able to save enough money for a down payment on a new house in the Northgate subdivision off Cherry Run Road.
Hopkins went through nine months of training, but she said the hard work was worth it.
The new homeowner praised the program.
The housing organization has promised to keep up with Hopkins and her well-being. The organization offers post-home ownership counseling, Amaxopulos said.
Mark Recko, director of the housing authority, said the organization will make sure Hopkins is working and making bank payments on time.
The organization also may help obtain a “soft, second loan,” with no interest for 30 years, to assist the new homeowners with mortgage payments.
Recko thanked Hopkins for helping the housing authority “in our first success and yours.”
Before the program, the housing authority dealt solely with public housing and Section 8 loans.
He said Hopkins moving into her new house is “tangible evidence that this is a new day for the housing authority.”
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette, who was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Hopkins’ house Wednesday, is impressed with the organization’s efforts.
Recko looks forward to more individuals completing the program and becoming homeowners.