August 6, 2015
By John McVey – Journal Staff Writer (firstname.lastname@example.org), Journal News
MARTINSBURG – The Eastern Panhandle HOME Consortium of West Virginia completed a banner year June 30, helping 24 people buy their first home, including the 200th first-time homebuyer in the program’s nine-year history.
“The members said it was one of the most productive program years ever,” Nancy Strine, who runs the HOME Consortium, said in a recent interview. “The most exciting thing is hitting 200 and being able to help so many people.”
Strine is the director of community development for the City of Martinsburg, which is the HOME Investment Partnership Program grant recipient and administrator for the Homebuyer Assistance Program for the region.
The HOME program is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funds help low- and moderate-income individuals and families to buy their first homes. The Homebuyer Assistance Program fills the gap between what the homebuyer can afford and the closing costs to buy a home.
The Eastern Panhandle HOME Consortium includes the City of Martinsburg and Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties. All the municipalities in the counties also are members of the consortium, making home sales in those municipalities eligible for HOME Consortium assistance.
The funds are divided among Martinsburg and Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties based on population. Berkeley County gets the most followed by Jefferson County, Martinsburg and Morgan County.
Fifteen percent of the consortium’s allocation from HUD must be set aside for the local Community Housing Development Organization, which is Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Panhandle.
During the 2014-15 fiscal year, the HOME Consortium helped nine more people than the previous fiscal year buy their first homes, Strine said. She said there are a couple reasons for the number being up.
“Right around the holiday time, there was a scare that interest rates were going up, although they did not, but there was that rumor, and I think a lot of people were trying to obtain a home loan in case interest rates did go up,” Strine said.
The consortium members also reduced the maximum assistance amount from $20,000 to $14,500, which allowed more funds to be available to more people, she said.
“That spread out the money more,” Strine said.
Another factor, she said, was the consortium brought in more mortgage partners, meaning more banks and lenders that worked with more potential first-time homebuyers.
“We got a lot more calls from Frederick (Maryland) and Winchester (Virginia) from banks and lenders that wanted to get in the program,” Strine said.
Housing in West Virginia is more affordable than in those states, she said, encouraging a lot of young and old people to move to the Eastern Panhandle because they can afford a home for the first time in their lives here.
In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the Eastern Panhandle HOME Consortium helped 11 people buy their first home in Berkeley County, seven in Jefferson County and three each in Morgan County and Martinsburg.
The average amount of assistance in the 2014-15 fiscal year was $12,667. The median home sales price was $119,726, and the median first mortgage was $111,635.
Through the 2014-15 fiscal year, the Eastern Panhandle HOME Consortium has received about $3.5 million in HOME funding since it was formed in 2006. During that time, 99 first-time homebuyers have been assisted in Berkeley County, 50 in Jefferson County, 28 in Martinsburg and 23 in Morgan County.
Through April of this year, HOME funds have leveraged about $25.4 million in home sales, and buyers had obtained about $24.4 million in mortgage loans, which is a ratio of $1 in Homebuyer Assistance Program funds to $8.22 in mortgage funding.
For more information about the HOME Consortium, program guidelines and applications, contact Strine at 304-264-2131 or email@example.com, or go to www.cityofmartinsburg.org and click on Community Development Department.
– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128, or twitter.com/jmcveyJN.
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