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Arlington Offers Down Payment Assistance to Qualified Homebuyers

County will offer 30-year, interest-free loans to qualified first-time buyers.

Arlington County has $1.2 million set aside to help low- to moderate-income families make their down payment when purchasing a home for the first time.

A little less than half of that, approved earlier this year, is set aside specifically for residents of the Buckingham Village community. The rest can provide up to 15 families with the up-front cash they would need to buy a home.

"The general premise of all homeownership programs is that most low- to moderate-income people can make their monthly payments. It's coming up with that up-front cash" where they need the most assistance, said Doug Myrick, the county's homeownership program coordinator.

While much of the Arlington County Board's action in the past year has been aimed at creating or maintaining affordable housing units for families making roughly $50,000 to $60,000 annually, the Moderate Income Purchase Assistance Program is aimed at families making 80 percent of the area median income. For a family of two, that's $68,800; for a family of four, that's $86,000.

The board bolstered its funding to MIPAP, as it is called, in mid-November, effectively broadening the county's commitment to ensuring affordability is part of the county's overall housing mix.

The county can lend up to 25 percent of the purchase price of a property interest-free for up to 30 years. The maximum purchase price is about $363,000 this year, meaning the maximum loan would be just shy of $91,000.

Borrowers can determine if they want to pay the money back early. Aside from the principal, they would owe 25 percent of any appreciated value their property accumulates. Essentially, the sooner the money is repaid, the less proportional appreciation would be owed.

Take the example of someone who borrowed money from the county for a down payment on a $300,000 home. After 30 years, the home appreciates to $400,000 — a $100,000 increase — which means the borrower would owe the county the principal plus $25,000.

The county is accepting applications now.

Applicants must complete a three-step process, including taking a six-hour homeownership education course under the Virginia Housing Development Authority, which is free, and obtaining a good-faith estimate of their buying power.

This process also involves meeting income, savings, credit and debt standards.

For qualified individuals who complete those steps, money will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

"We want to make sure we get the money into the hands of the people who are ready as quickly as we can," Myrick told Patch. "If they are ready to move forward through our programs, we want to make that happen."

The cash from Arlington would be compatible with a state housing agency program that could lend a family the larger amount of money — what's needed to finance the home. Under one compatible Virginia Housing Development Authority program, the borrower would need only 1 percent of the cost of the home in savings — or $4,000 on a $400,000 home.

"We're hailing on every frequency to get the word out," Myrick said. "We're feeling very fortunate to have the resources. And we want to do our best to get the resources to the people who are ready to go and who qualify."

The county is willing to work with those who don't qualify so that they may become eligible in the future, he said.

"Everyone in Arlington who is interested in homeownership, we welcome them giving us a call," Myrick said.

Want to know more? Myrick can be reached directly at 703-228-3786 or dmyrick@arlingtonva.us.

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