Home-buying help is back in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Home-buying help is back in Eagle County

Veronica Whitney

FirstBank presented the county last week with a $40,000 donation for the program, suspended in October for lack of funds.

“The program was so popular we didn’t have enough money to meet the demand last year,” said Scott Lancelot, director of housing for Eagle County. “The program now counts with about $300,000 in funds.”

Apart from First Bank’s donation, Eagle County commissioners donated $100,000 from this years’ county budget, and the state of Colorado Community Development Fund pitched in $90,000. The rest of the money comes from other contributions and money paid back to the program by borrowers.

“This program is a critical step in meeting one of the greatest ongoing challenges in Eagle County,” said County Commissioner Arn Menconi.

In the past four years, Eagle County’s Down Payment Assistance Program has loaned $1.2 million to 110 households.

The program, which started in 1998 with the county’s Comprehensive Housing Plan, is a revolving loan fund that provides loans to local residents to help with the down payment, closing costs and prepaid costs for purchasing a home.

“It doesn’t provide all the down payment, but it can make a difference between buying a home or not for many people,” Lancelot said.

Some low-income families can qualify for a $20,000 loan.

“That money, coupled with money they already saved, lowers the payments they can make each month,” he added. “You can put down as little as 4 percent, but obviously people should put as much as they can to lower payments.”

A potential home-buyer needs to be pre-approved or pre-qualified through a lender. who submits the application to the Colorado Housing Assistance Corporation. The earning cap for one to two people is $59,300; for a three-person household, it’s $68,195. The maximum purchase price of a home is $225,000.

The homebuyer also must provide a minimum of 3 percent of the purchase price or $3,000, whichever is less.

“The continued success of the Eagle County Down Payment Assistance Program is dependent upon the continued support and partnering of both public and private sectors in our valley,” said Leslie Isom, chair of the Home Buyers Assistance Committee, which oversees the program

If the program is to grow, it needs more contributions, Lancelot said.

In 2002, for example, the program loaned $545,000 – and that’s why it ran out of money, Lancelot said.

“We have a demand for about $600,000 a year,” he said. “Right now, there are at least 10 applications in the pipeline in Denver. The money we have now could be committed by April. After that, we might need more contributions to continue the program this year.”

Contributors in the past included: the Colorado Association of Realtors Housing Opportunity Fund and its local chapter, the Vail Board of Realtors; Eagle County; Mountain Bank; WestStar Bank, now owned by Wells Fargo; and FirstBank.

“FirstBank is dedicated to helping low- to moderate-income borrowers in Eagle County realize their dreams of home ownership,” said Kevin Armitage, assistant vice president of FirstBank.

In December, the county started taking applications for another program aimed to help home-buyers. The Mortgage Credit Certificate program offers qualified borrowers a federal income-tax credit of up to 20 percent on their annual home mortgage interest.

“These two programs assist people in buying homes in a very high-cost market,” Lancelot said. “Otherwise, these people wouldn’t be able to buy a house.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.

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