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Clarksburg signs up for Housing Fund program

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Clarksburg is the first city in the state to take advantage of a new state program aimed at providing home loans for working West Virginians.

The program is administered through the West Virginia Housing Development Fund, using Fannie Mae federal funding.

Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, is a publicly held company that provides money for home mortgages. Through Fannie Mae, the Housing Fund is offering 100 percent financing of homes up to $300,000 for employees of participating businesses.

The home loan program, similar to one started in 2000 for the state's educators, is open to every private and public employer in the state that has a valid West Virginia business license, said Jim Hunt, area manager of the Housing Fund.

"The idea behind this is that one of the biggest obstacles to people nationwide is the down payment and closing costs," Hunt said. "You might have good credit and a good job, but if you can't save the $3,000, $4,000 or $5,0000 needed for the down payment and closing costs, you can't get the home."

Under the Housing Fund's program, 100 percent of the home's cost will be financed. Unlike traditional loans, a potential home buyer can use loans, gifts or other means to gather closing costs.

"You can get into a loan for just $500 or 1 percent of the total home cost, whichever is less," Hunt said. "Obviously, you need some dollars, but this eliminates some of the costs and has more options than regular loan programs."

The program has only been in place about three weeks, Hunt said. Employers such as Fairmont State College and Grafton Homes have signed up, but Clarksburg is the first government entity committed.

"There is great potential benefit to the city's employees, whereby they can buy a house with very little money down," said City Manager Tom Vidovich. "Since there is no cost to the employer, we felt like this was something good we could offer to the employees of the city. While there is no direct benefit to the city, anytime you can do something that helps the employees, the city benefits."

While there is no cost to participating employers, there are still some responsibilities, Hunt said. Employers can choose to do one or more of several things, including: Displaying program materials prominently around the office, promote the program in company materials, provide employees with program materials and provide a classroom for the mandatory Home Buyer Counseling class.

The classes are a mandatory step for the potential home buyer because of the amount of money involved, Hunt said.

"We felt there was a need for some education on what it takes to maintain credit, maintain the home and other things associated with owning a home," Hunt said. "Actually, it's a pretty good idea for anyone who is renting, as well."

Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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