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Jeannette's 1st-time homebuyers program exceeds 120 new owners

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

The City of Jeannette's first-time homebuyer program will see its 124th successful participant this week as council approves the application of the buyer of an Arlington Avenue home.

The program, which was established years ago, brings about 10 new homeowners to the city each year. Through state Community Development Block Grant funds, the city offers first-time homebuyers up to $3,000 to help with closing and downpayment costs on a home in Jeannette.

The funds are offered through a “matching”payment of up to half of a buyer's downpayment and closing costs. Those costs must exceed $6,000 for the applicant to receive the full benefit of the program. Buyers need to meet certain income guidelines, which change every year. This year, the maximum income for a single person is $36,500 and $52,100 for a family of four.

Residents who rent within the city need to be current on all Jeannette taxes and fees to be considered for the program.

There are no requirements for the type of home a buyer is looking to purchase, but Diana Reitz, the city's community development director, said the home must be structurally sound and livable.

“We want to make sure it's a good investment,” said Reitz. “It has to be a house you can sustain and not an unlivable shack. We do a drive-by and make sure the home is in good condition.”

The program is meant to encourage homeownership and also to encourage more owner-occupied homes within the city.

“The house needs to be owner-occupied for at least five years,” said Reitz. “We put a lien on the property for the amount the buyer receives toward their downpayment. Each year that the owner lives in the house, 20 percent of the lien is removed. If you move earlier than five years, you would need to repay the city a percentage (of the downpayment funds).”

Each year, the city receives around $30,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to use toward this particular program. Those funds can benefit at least 10 new homeowners each year.

“We have slow periods during the year, but we generate more interest depending on the (housing) market,” said Reitz. “If interest rates are good, people will pick up (deals). We're starting to get interest from real estate agents again.”

Initially the program attracted mainly families, but Reitz is seeing an influx of single residents choosing to become homeowners.

“As long as they are income eligible and get the bank's agreement (on a mortgage), they can buy the home of their choosing,” said Reitz.

Any potential homebuyers, or real estate agents, interested in learning more about this program should contact the city's community development department directly at 724-527-4000, ext. 6, to receive the most up-to-date information on requirements and availability of funds.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

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