Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wells Fargo offers $5.5 million in downpayment help

Wells Fargo on Wednesday said it will award grants of $15,000 apiece to Charlotte homebuyers in need of down-payment assistance, under a program the lender created to help markets hit hard by the housing downturn.

The program, Neighborhood Lift, launched in February of last year to target markets with large inventories of unsold homes. Since then, the San Francisco-based bank has made the grants available in other cities, including Atlanta, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

In Charlotte, Wells will offer $5.5 million in the downpayment aid.

In a press release, Kendall Alley, head of Wells Fargo's community banking operation for the Charlotte region, said Charlotte was "deeply affected by the housing crisis." While mortgage rates are at historically low levels, he said, many people are still struggling to come up with a downpayment.

Those applying for the program must meet certain criteria. For one, borrowers can't earn more than 120 percent of the Charlotte-area median income. For a family of four, for example, 120 percent is $78,100, according to Wells.

The homes can only be purchased by those who plan to occupy them. Every year, 20 percent of the grant will be forgiven, to ensure borrowers will remain in the homes for at least five years. Borrowers can use the funding to buy new or existing homes.

The program is restricted to homes within the city limits of Charlotte, which is similar to how the program has been structured in many other markets, according to Wells officials.

Borrowers are free to pick their mortgage lender and are not required to get their loan through Wells Fargo. Rather, borrowers can use any of the lenders approved by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, which will qualify borrowers applying to the program.

Once borrowers are qualified, they have 60 days to find a home to buy or they'll lose the funding.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership will also administer the downpayment funding and provide the homebuyer education the program requires applicants to take, according to Wells officials. CMHP is affiliated with NeighborWorks America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that has been working with Wells Fargo on Neighborhood Lift since its creation.

Rod Banks, who oversees community development in Charlotte for Wells Fargo, told the Observer the program's aim is to "stabilize" cities where there have been many foreclosures.

In the wake of the housing downturn, Wells Fargo has "spent a lot of time" helping its struggling borrowers to not lose their homes, he said. Those efforts include modifying loans, he said.

Through Neighborhood Lift, Wells Fargo is promoting homeownership in major U.S. markets where it has helped people avoid losing their properties to foreclosure, he said.

"Now our focus is shifting more toward homeownership, first-time homebuyer programs, to help folks who want to get into housing," he said. "We think that a program like this will just strengthen the market even further."

A free event for those applying for the program will be held 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26 at the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St. Prospective homebuyers can register at Preregistration is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome. For more information, call (866) 802-0456.

Wells said the Charlotte Neighborhood Lift program is a $6.6 million initiative, which includes $500,000 that will be used to help low-income renters, such as by subsidizing rents.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lot of money that could help people achieve home ownership, but seeing as how costly homes are, I wonder how many people that could help?