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Funding for the North Country Direct Homeownership Assistance Program comes from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Photo: <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US-DeptOfHUD-Seal.svg">U.S. Government</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Funding for the North Country Direct Homeownership Assistance Program comes from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Photo: U.S. Government, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

North Country counties to turn more people into homeowners

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One of the most expensive parts of buying a new home is the down payment. That can be especially tricky for low income families, who may have never bought a house before, and therefore don't have a great credit score. When buyers don't have good credit, the down payment is especially high - sometimes as high as 20 percent.

Thanks to a new kind of collaboration among seven north country counties, a couple dozen low income families will soon have an easier time with that down payment.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

Renting an apartment is cheaper than buying a house, at least in the short term. But Matilda Larson of the St. Lawrence County Planning office says a house gives people stability and a valuable asset. Larson says it’s a key piece of the puzzle for families trying to find their way out of poverty.

The  parents, who want to send their children to school, will be able to take equity out of their house, and help finance their students’ education. 

In the north country, most of the counties have Homeownership Assistance Programs. The programs help income eligible families who’ve saved up for a house, but still can’t afford the down payment. The county covers that down payment, as well as some household repairs, and even classes on navigating the housing market.

But the county programs don’t cover all areas. For example, Hamilton County has no program at all. Larson says a new region-wide collaboration is going to change that. It’s called the North Country Direct Homeownership Assistance Program.

No one will be excluded based on geographic location. We’re going to be able to assist more households with a regional model than would occur on an individual, county-wide basis.

Larson says that by the year, the new collaboration will start helping 28 more families – four in each of the seven counties – who might’ve otherwise spent a decade saving funds to buy their home.  

The program is still pretty limited. It’s only helping a small number of families, and most of them have already been on waiting lists. The regional collaboration itself has been in the review process for a whole year.

(UPDATE: St. Lawrence County will soon apply for a grant to fund another round of homeownership assistance. The county will hold a public hearing to give residents the opportunity to learn more about the program. The hearing will be on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM in Room 226 of the County Courthouse - 48 Court Street, Canton, NY.) 

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