The median income per household in Greene County is $63,000, which can make it tough for young families to save enough money for a down payment for home. That’s especially true with the amount of student debt many have after college graduation these days, says Fran Levin, Skyline Community Action Partnership (CAP) Inc. executive director.
“At some point in our lives we were all trying to figure out how we were going to save enough money for our first home,” he said.
Levin noted that those within the $40,000-70,000 income range for a family of four are often referred to as “workforce families” with the head of the household typically holding a job that is considered essential to a community—such as a teacher, police officer, firefighter or nurse.
“New construction home prices are generally higher than families at these income levels can afford,” he added.
That’s where the agency’s new First-Time Homebuyer program offers assistance, and it’s kicking off in Greene County with property purchased in the Town of Stanardsville. Skyline CAP is a non-profit community action agency for Greene, Madison and Orange counties.
Through the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), funds are distributed from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program offered through the Virginia Housing Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Greene County is a member of TJPDC but neither Madison nor Orange counties are designated within a planning district commission, Levin said.
“The TJPDC administers the home funds, which can be used to grow staff capacity and financial capacity for affordable housing,” he said. “When I first started, someone said ‘Fran, you should look into this because Skyline CAP has money in the bank’ so-to-speak as TJPDC was holding the money until we did something with it.”
Stanardsville was suggested as a great location to begin, he said, because affordable housing is part of the comprehensive plan for the town, as well as the county.
Skyline CAP purchased land on Madison Road (Va. Route 230) near its intersection with Main Street that it will subdivide into two lots for single-family homes.
“What we’re doing is buying land and Bethel Builders will take the home from the ground up—from permits, bringing utilities from the road to the property to building the home,” he said. “We’ll buy the home from Bethel Builders and sell it to the buyer. But, the buyer is going to be able to work with the builder to build a home that works for them.”
Homes will be stick-built and will typically contain living space of 1,100 to 1,500 square feet, with three bedrooms and two baths. The anticipated price range of these homes is $160,000 to $220,000. Levin said Bethel Builders, a woman-owned company, has about two dozen designs that fall into that mortgage range.
The program also has the ability to help those with credit repair, down payment and closing costs.
“Mortgage bankers get a lot of folks that just don’t qualify,” he said. “We have resources that can help a young family with closing costs or a down payment, and we potentially have resources to help with the mortgage rate. We’re certainly not developers or realtors or anything like that but we understand each of the pieces well enough that we’re going to put together a package together that will work for these families.”
Financially, buyers should not allow the principal interest, insurance, taxes and mortgage be more than 35 percent of their monthly income and should not have more than 42 percent of their income wrapped up in debt, Levin said.
“So many young kids are coming out of school with student loans or first car loans, doesn’t even have to be a big car to be $300-400 per month,” Levin said. “There are things we won’t be able to help, like paying off debts, but we can help repair credit. It could be a family needs to be with us for a couple years to bring loans down.”
Part of the program is mandatory counseling, which is essentially teaching you how to be a homeowner.
The housing funds come in reinvestment requirements.
“As we build, we get home funds and we pay the builder. Then we have an asset so when we sell the home, the bank gives us the money,” Levin said. “We put it in our bank and the faster we can do it the more we can do. The federal government is giving us that initial funding to start the program and we keep rolling that over and over again.”
He said Skyline CAP hopes to be building something by the fall, but right now they’re looking for qualifying buyers. Getting it off the ground is going to be a bit of a challenge, he said. Often teachers are not able to live in communities where they work because of the rising cost of housing, so he plans to speak with the school division once the school year ends.
“It’s not just getting families into homes,” said Peggy Hobbs, marketing and resource development manager for Skyline CAP. “It’s allowing people to build wealth and a boost to the economy in Stanardsville and Greene County.”
Levin said there’s an even greater benefit to the community as a whole by this project.
“When people buy a home they’ll invest in the community in other ways, too. They’ll become tax payers, send their kids to the schools and join different youth organizations. There’s a difference between a renter and a homeowner,” he said. “And we’re paying the builder which stimulates the economy.”
Skyline CAP will hold its First-Time Homebuyer Workshop May 18 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Greene County Library.