Grant program targets first-time homebuyers

Qualified first-time homebuyers in Pierce County can apply for low-interest mortgages under a federal program designed to help distressed neighborhoods.

Pierce County is receiving about $4.6 million via the Neighborhood Stabilization Program that was included in the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The program’s purpose is to help alleviate the foreclosure crisis and distressed neighborhoods by providing funding for the acquisition of vacant bank-owned properties. The state received a total of $28 million for this program, and Pierce County’s allocation is the largest share.

The Housing Program within Pierce County’s Department of Community Services will use the grant funding to provide low-interest mortgages to low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers who meet federal guidelines.

Participating buyers must be eligible based on income and credit, and they must attend eight hours of homebuyer education. A house purchased under the Neighborhood Stabilization Loan Program must be a bank-owned foreclosed property, and the purchase price must be discounted at least 1 percent from the “as-is” fair market appraised value. This program applies to properties in unincorporated Pierce County and cities except for Tacoma and Lakewood, which are receiving separate grants totaling $3.7 million.

The County hopes to assist 25 to 30 first-time homebuyers through this program. Applicants must go through a pre-screening process to determine eligibility and the price range of houses they qualify for. The pre-screening application deadline is Oct. 31.

Once approved, applicants can then work with real estate agents, banks, web sites or other means to find eligible properties. There are more than 2,000 bank-owned properties in Pierce County that meet the guidelines, according to Realty Trac.

For more information, contact one of the Community Services Department’s loan officers: Bryan Schmid, 253-798-6909; Shannon Shuman, 253-798-6905; or Sheree Clark, 253-798-6916.