Friday, October 08, 2004

Feds Offer Housing Assistance to Renters

For those who find themselves using HUD Section 8 housing choice vouchers, homeownership is not as far away as you may think. The Homeownership Voucher Program enables first-time homebuyers in low income brackets to purchase a house using HUD Section 8 funding to help with the payment and some housing expenses.

The federal program is administered through local Public Housing Authorities (a list of which can be found at this link: Meanwhile, not all PHAs participate in the program, however, thousands of new homeowners across the country enjoy the benefits of homeownership because of this program.

Housing vouchers can only be obtained by current holders of HUD rental vouchers. So if you want to take advantage of this program, then you have to apply via HUD for rental voucher assistance first before then following the process of using that voucher to buy a home. The voucher can be used to subsidize the monthly payment and housing expenses – the amount it will subsidize is up to 70% of such payment, according to the HUD web site,

The tenant-buyer must find the house, which must undergo an initial housing quality standards inspection conducted by the PHA, as well as a home inspection. The good news for families that live in expensive areas, unlike the rental voucher, you don’t have to buy a house in the jurisdiction of the PHA.

Here are some other requirements of the program:

First-time homeowner or cooperative member.
No family member has owned or had ownership interest in their residence for at least three years.
Except for cooperative members, no member of the family has any ownership interest in any residential property.
There is an minimum income requirement calculated by the current minimum wage times 2000 hours – that’s currently $10,300 annually. For disabled families, the qualified annual income of the adult family members who will own the home must not be less than the monthly Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit for an individual living alone multiplied by 12 (currently $6,768). These are general guidelines, the PHA may establish a higher minimum income requirement. Except in the case of an elderly or disabled family, welfare assistance is not counted in determining whether the family meets the minimum income requirement.
Employment requirement. Except in the case of elderly and disabled families, one or more adults in the family who will own the home has been and is currently employed on a full-time basis for at least one year before.
The PHA may have its own requirements as well that must be followed.
The family must attend and satisfactorily complete the PHA's pre-assistance homeownership and housing counseling program.

The homeownership voucher can also be used to help cover monthly homeownership expenses, which include the following:
1. Mortgage principal and interest, 2. Mortgage insurance premium, 3. Real estate taxes and homeowner insurance, 4. Part of the utilities,5. Some routine maintenance costs, 6. Allowable major repairs and replacements, 7. Principal and interest on debt to finance major repairs and replacements for the home, and8. Principal and interest on debt to finance costs to make the home accessible for a family member with disabilities if the PHA determines it is needed as a reasonable accommodation.

Like all good things, this won’t last forever. While the voucher program has no time limit for an elderly household or a disabled family, all other families, can only receive assistance for 15 years if the initial mortgage is 20 years or longer. For all other mortgages, the assistance runs up to 10 years. This limit is very generous when you consider most homeowners stay in a property an average of five to seven years.

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