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Programs Can Assist First-Time Homebuyers

by Vince Bushell

I asked Riverwest residents in 1999 what they liked about living here. The most common answers: the neighborhood is affordable, diverse, and it offers a city life-style. They also wanted to keep it that way. One way to help stabilize the housing market is to increase the number of homeowners, especially those buyers who plan on setting roots and staying for a while. The State of Wisconsin Division of Housing provides funding to assist first time homebuyers through HCRI (pronounced hickory) grants. The Milwaukee HCRI Home Ownership Consortium’s First-Time Homebuyers Grant Program provides forgivable loans of up to $2,500 to help you with down payment and closing costs for the purchase of your home in the City of Milwaukee. Who is eligible? Eligibility guidelines are as follows. The homebuyer(s) must be first-time purchasers of a home (defined as not owning a home within the last 3 years). Your household income must be within the income requirements (household size 1-$35,550. 2-$40,650, 3-$45,700, 4-$50,800). The property must be a single family, duplex or condominium located in the City of Milwaukee. What do I have to do?

  1. Get educated. You must take a homebuyer’s counseling course given by one of the HCRI groups listed at the end of this article.
  2. Hang around. You must own and live in the property for at least 3 years after purchase.
  3. Get it inspected. A home inspection is required to insure that your purchase is in safe and decent condition.
  4. Save some money. You must supply at least 3% of the purchase price from you own funds.
  5. Apply for the grant. Contact one of the participating counseling organizations preferably before but not later than 5 days after applying for you home mortgage loan.

Agencies that provide HCRI assistance: Housing Resources, Inc. Trena Thomas 4850 W. Fond du lac Avenue Milwaukee WI 53208 445-5880 Career Youth Development, Inc. Bill Cain 2601 N. Martin Luther King Drive Milwaukee WI 53212 264-6888 NOHIM Lenders (Your mortgage loan must be from a lender who is a participant in the consortium. This list may change. You can check with Select Milwaukee at 562-5070 if you have a question on a particular lender.) American Home Loans, Associated Bank, Bank One Wisconsin, Bay View Federal Savings & Loan, Central States Mortgage, Educators Credit Union, Equitable Bank SSB, Firstar Bank, First Service Credit Union, Great Midwest Bank, Guaranty Bank SSB, Landmark Credit Union, Layton State Bank, Ledger Bank, M&I Bank, Maritime Savings Bank, Marquette Savings Bank, Milwaukee Western Bank, Mutual Savings Bank, North Shore Bank FSB, Park Bank, PyraMax Bank, St. Francis Bank FSB, State Financial Bank, TCF National Bank Wisconsin FSB, Universal Savings Bank, US Bank Corporation, Wells Fargo Bank HCRI requirements are subject to change. Of course all lenders in this program subscribe to fair and equal housing opportunity guidelines. For further information, contact Vince Bushell, YMCA CDC Housing Information, 263-1380 Extension 13.

Need Help Fixing up your Home?

Record keeping is important in the process of applying for a loan or grant. Start a file now and keep it up to date with the following information. You can lose the opportunity to take advantage of a grant if you cannot provide this information in a timely and complete manner. Having organized records helps when you go to a bank for a loan. Usually information that is over one year old is not acceptable. Income – Income tax records. I would suggest keeping a minimum of 3 years records of past income tax filings including W-2 forms. Payroll stubs can suffice if you have just started working. If you are on Social Security, disability, or on a pension, you should have a letter showing benefits from SSI or a statement from your pension plan. All sources of income need to be listed on applications (child support, rental income, etc.) For grants, household income includes everyone living in your home over the age of 18. You must have a verifiable source of income to be eligible for most grants or loans. If you are self employed you will need records of your yearly earnings (most likely your income tax return.) Income limits vary depending on the grant or subsidized loan program. Educate yourself on the limits so you know what is available to you. Property Taxes – To be eligible for a City grant or low interest loan you should be up to date on paying your property taxes and have records to prove it. Utility Bills – Some programs require that you show proof of payment and/or a payment plan for your Gas, Electric, and Water bills. Keep these payment records up to date in your file. Title – The applicant’s name must be on the title to the property. If there is more than one name on the title, both parties must agree and provide information to be eligible to apply for funding. This can create problems if one of the owners no longer lives in the home and does not have interest in the property. Only occupants of the home should be listed on the title to simplify applications for grants and loans. Clear up title questions first before considering grants or loans for home rehabilitation. Insurance – The City or the Bank is going to want to have its investment insured. You need to have documentation of having paid up home insurance. If you are applying for a grant and have been refused insurance you should have a letter from the insurance company saying that you have been refused service and the reasons for this refusal. Blood Tests (Lead Contamination) – Some programs now require that children under the age of 7 have a current blood-screening test for lead poising done before the application is accepted. It is a good idea to have all young children living in older homes tested for this problem. Early detection is important to avoid serious complications later on. A record of this test is submitted with the application for Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP) projects to the Health Department. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 1 – February 2002
by Vince Bushell