Affordable housing prospects boosted as two agencies collaborate

ELIZABETHTOWN People who live and work in the Adirondacks now have greater opportunities to obtain affordable housing since two agencies have joined in a collaborative effort, officials said Wednesday. The State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) announced Wednesday it was now providing mortgages to working families who buy homes -- both new and resale that are offered through community land trusts. The first trust to join the program is the Adirondack Community Housing Trust, whose director said Wednesday families throughout the Adirondack Park are now welcome to apply to his agency for financial help in purchasing affordable homes. The Housing Trust pays up-front money to buyers of both new and existing homes, to be used for down payments, or towards renovation costs. An average grant to a home buyer, according to Housing Trust Executive Director Alan Hipps, is expected to be about $20,000. In exchange, a home buyer agrees to have the Housing Trust own the land underneath the home, and the buyer leases it for $25 per year, but owns the structures on the land. When the buyer eventually sells the house, the profit from propertys price appreciation is split between the Housing Trust and the owner 75 percent to the Trust and 25 percent to the homeowner. That 75 percent is applied to reduce the propertys cost to the next owner, so the property remains affordable in perpetuity to local families, Hipps said. The up-front grant is not the only way a buyer benefits. The state Mortgage Agencys participation in the program now means the buyer may obtain interest rates through local banks at interest rates substantially lower than conventional loans, Hipps said, which means families monthly mortgage payments are reduced. Hipps said his agency was sponsoring 12 new homes in a development planned for Long Lake and six in a Keene development. He said other potential projects elsewhere are now under serious consideration. His agency is also ready to help families buy existing homes throughout the Adirondack Park, he said. "This partnership will enable hard-working Adirondack families to afford homes in the towns, villages and hamlets in which they grew up, Hipps said. Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said shed been deeply concerned for years about housing affordability in the Adirondacks, and this new partnership between SONYMA and the Adirondack Housing Trust was a significant step forward. For working families who live in the region, the cost of purchasing a home is a real problem, she said. This partnership will allow our working men and women to own a home and continue our Adirondack traditions." State Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said that SONYMAs initiative to offer loans to housing trust clients was important, considering tightening credit availability for low- and moderate-income families. This new partnership makes a lot of sense, she said, noting that the SONYMA mortgage partnership would likely stimulate local economies. Little has worked hard for years on the affordable housing crisis, Hipps said, and last year she obtained $1 million for the Adirondack Community Housing Trust to distribute to qualifying home buyers. That money, he said, will enable his agency to help as many as 40 families buy homes. Hipps said his agencys target for 2008 was to help 30 families. Homes enrolled in this program will become forever affordable, he said.

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