More money to buy homes? |

More money to buy homes?

EAGLE COUNTY ” Despite uncertain economic times, the county may beef up its down-payment assistance program.

Commissioners are considering putting another $300,000 into the home-loan program, which has already loaned more than $600,000 to 23 home buyers this year.

The decision will be made in time for the county’s next supplemental budget.

“(The program) is much more important now than ever, and thus far it’s been very successful,” said Alex Potente, managing director for the housing department.

The program saw a jump in interest around April and May of this year, when people had trouble getting loans, he said.

The county’s program gives loans of 5 percent of the purchase price for free-market homes and 10 percent for deed-restricted homes. The loans are available for homes costing up to $450,000.

So far the program has been funded completely by “in-lieu” fees, or fees that developers must pay the county when building a project that doesn’t include required workforce housing.

While commissioners said they want to get people into homes at a time when the economy is tough, they also want to lend wisely and avoid giving loans to people who may default.

So far the program has a good track record ” there has only been one foreclosure out of about 200 loans in the history of the program, Potente said.

Right now a group of bankers, lenders, real estate agents and other professionals advises the county on the program.

However, commissioners want to expand the group to include more experts from the community. The group would get together to determine the loan rates on a quarterly basis.

Potente said the county already has tightened it lending requirements slightly this year, such as lowering their debt-to-income and loan-to-value requirements.

Commissioner Peter Runyon said he was hesitant to expand the program when the country’s financial state is so uncertain.

“Until we see what’s going to happen in the next few weeks, it’s not a service to people to get them into (home buying),” he said.

However, other officials disagreed.

“The other argument is that when the market is doing badly, that’s the chance for (down-payment assistance programs) to step up. Getting locals into houses now may be brilliant in the long run,” Potente said.

Commissioner Sara Fisher agreed it might be an ideal time for the county to offer more help to potential home buyers.

“It’s shortsighted for us even in this time of economic crisis not to get those that we can into home ownership,” Fisher said. “I think keeping this program alive is important at this time.”

Commissioner Arn Menconi pushed for what he called a “down-payment assistance program on steroids,” which would fuel the program with money from private-sector bankers and the possible sale of the Lake Creek Village apartments.

“There will be some opportunities next year,” Menconi said. “We need to stop talking about it amongst ourselves and get poised (to expand the program).”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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