Housing Trust Fund helps first-time homebuyers
What seemed like an impossibility — especially in Santa Barbara with its high-priced real estate — the American dream of owning one’s home has become a reality for Stacey Walker and Alec Missel.
The first-time home buyers were able to purchase a single-story home in Goleta with the help of the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County, a nonprofit financing agency whose mission is to expand affordable housing opportunities for low-to-middle income residents and workers in Santa Barbara County.
“My wife and I had never bought a home before, and we had a lot to learn when it came to all the vernacular and documentation that comes along with the home buying process,” Mr. Missel said. “The educational services and financing that the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara provided were extremely valuable, and we wouldn’t have been able to buy a house whatsoever without their help.”
According to Jennifer McGovern, president and CEO, the primary program of the Housing Trust Fund is a Revolving Loan Fund that provides direct low-cost financing to facilitate rental and home ownership.
“We help bridge the financial gap between the cost of housing and what people can afford to pay. We partner with the private, public and nonprofit sectors to raise new financial resources for affordable housing,” she told the News-Press.
“Our Workforce Homebuyer Program, launched in May 2012, provides down payment assistance to help low-to-moderate income households buy homes in the communities where they work, enabling a stable residence that strengthens the family and the neighborhood.”
The biggest obstacle for first-time homebuyers is coming up with the down payment, said Ms. McGovern, noting that Santa Barbara County is the sixth least affordable small metropolitan housing market in the nation, according to the National Association of Builders.
“Some people are fortunate enough to borrow the money from relatives, but many are not. The Housing Fund acts as the relative,” said Ms. McGovern. “We can provide low-cost, fixed-rate down payment loans up to $100,000 to help local employees purchase an affordable home anywhere in Southern Santa Barbara County from the Carpinteria Valley to Gaviota and including the communities of Buellton, Solvang and Santa Ynez.”
The Housing Trust Fund has closed a total of 17 loans under the new program.
“With home prices on the rise, coming up with a down payment is more difficult than ever. The Housing Trust Fund provided us the money to make our dream of owning a home a reality. The process was easy and efficient, and working with Yvette Lounsbury, the Workforce Homebuyer Program Administrator, was wonderful to work with,” said Lance Heather.
To qualify for the funds, clients must be employed in Santa Barbara County, be first-time home buyers or not have owned a home in the previous three years, and they must take an online homebuyer education course “so they know what they are getting into,” said Ms. McGovern.
Annual income requirements for low-to-middle income clients are a maximum of $184,400 for households with one to four people and $243,400 for households of five to eight people.
The low-income requirement is a maximum of $87,800 for a family of four.
“Most are buying condos or townhouses because of the lower prices, but some are buying single family homes,” said Ms. McGovern, who is especially excited about a new venture the Housing Trust Fund is about to launch.
The Housing Innovations Program is a 3D printed affordable home project that will promote innovative technologies to reduce the cost of constructing affordable housing and utilize sustainable and fire-resistant building materials.
“Our first phase is to sponsor the construction of a prototype 3D printed affordable home in collaboration with Apis Cor, an engineering firm that was a NASA finalist to develop housing on Mars. Apis Cor developed a state-of-the-art 3D printing robot that can print entirely on-site a reinforced concrete 407-square-foot home in 24 hours for a cost of $10,000,” said Ms.McGovern.
“The first model will be a small, one-story home to demonstrate the application of 3D printing technology in creating affordable housing. The home will include energy efficiency systems and sustainability features.”
She added that the prototype home may target households with special needs, such as low-income families, farm workers, persons with disabilities or homeless persons.
Helping with the planning of the project are the UCSB Bren School of the Environment and the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Institute of Architects who will engage the community in the planning and design by sponsoring a Design Charette.
“In all, the Housing Trust Fund has helped 65 low, moderate and middle income families, couples and single persons achieve the dream of homeownership and put down roots in the community. We also designed and managed homebuyer assistance programs for the cities of Carpinteria and Lompoc,” said Ms. McGovern.
“We could not carry out our mission without the generous support of our community, funders, investors and donors, especially the four banks who helped provide us with our initial funds — American Riviera, Community West, Mechanics and Montecito Bank & Trust.”