Nonprofit program boosts local home ownership through forgivable loans

BCL of Texas home loans

More than 400 families in Central Texas have received down-payment assistance toward the purchase of their homes thanks to a program administered by BCL of Texas, a statewide nonprofit that supports small businesses and homebuyers. The program, called NeighborhoodLIFT, is funded by Wells Fargo Foundation and administered in Central Texas by BCL. In total, $4 million in forgivable down-payment loans will have been granted in the Austin area between 2016 and the end of 2018.

NeighbordhoodLIFT was designed to keep homeowners in the community who could otherwise not afford it,” said Raquel Valdez, chief operating officer of BCL of Texas. BCL is one of 50 locations across the country that participate in NeighborhoodLIFT, which was created in 2012.   “It’s a proven model,” she said. The program provides forgivable loans of up to $7,500 for homebuyers who qualify. No interest is charged on the loan, and for each year the homeowner stays in the home, 30 percent of the loan is forgiven.

Homebuyers have to meet certain qualifications and be approved for a mortgage by a lender in the program, and they also must attend a homebuyer education course, which offers more than financial advice, says Valdez. “We talk about how to get involved and be a part of the community, as well as what happens after you become a homeowner and how to maintain your investment.” BCL and other area housing agencies offer the course in person in English and Spanish as well as online.

Last July, retired Navy veteran Steven Hanaway received a loan toward the purchase of his three-bedroom home in San Marcos. Hanaway served as a corpsman with a specialty in orthopedics, but an injury caused him to lose mobility and had lived in apartments, often with roommates, for years. Since having two surgeries earlier this year that restored his ability to walk without assistance, he’s starting to look toward the future. The program offers special eligibility requirements for veterans, says Valdez.

“I found out about it from my real estate agent,” said Hanaway. “The course was really helpful because it helped me learn some of those things that I now realize are pretty obvious, but at the time I didn’t think about. It helped me be a more informed buyer.” With the stability of home ownership, Hanaway says he can start to pursue a degree in physics, and he hopes to attend UT-Austin. The amateur astronomer is a leader of the San Antonio Astronomical Association and volunteers to teach astronomy concepts in schools throughout the region. “I can’t speak for other vets, but sometimes it’s hard to reach out for help,” he said, “and a lot of time there are programs you may not even know about  to help disabled vets like me.”

PHOTO: Retired veteran Steven Hanaway used a forgivable loan to purchase his home in San Marcos, where he lives with his two dogs. Contributed by BCL of Texas.

NOTE: A version of this article was also published in the Austin American-Statesman on Nov. 11, 2018

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