Press release from the City:
Mayor touts homeownership as a means to neighborhood strength and viability
Mayor and HUD Representatives Point to NSP Success
Mayor Tom Henry was joined by representatives from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as local developers involved in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) to recognize HUD’s Homeownership Month and to encourage homeownership.
“While homeownership is still the American dream, many families are struggling,” said Mayor Tom Henry. “Our commitment to our citizens, homeowners and neighborhoods is to help existing homeowners stay in their homes and to responsibly provide opportunity for new homeowners.”
The City of Fort Wayne is in the midst of one of the NSP’s most successful launches in the country. “While many communities are still setting up their NSPs, Fort Wayne has already conducted training sessions, identified development teams, found 26 interested buyers, linked 15 with development teams, and closed and begun construction on five previously vacant, foreclosed houses. Development teams are at work investing in those houses to bring them up to – and beyond – minimum code requirements, and preparing to turn them over to buyers. We are turning houses into homes,” said Mayor Henry.
The Mayor and others held today’s event in front of a previously foreclosed house in the 4600 block of Austin Drive. “Not only are Ric Zehr and his development team working hard to fix any problems with this house, they are also adding some character to it. This is going to be a home anyone would be proud to call their own,” said Mayor Henry. “We want to commend Ric and other developers who are joining in the NSP challenge Together, we are strengthening Fort Wayne neighborhoods, putting people to work in tough economic times and building a firm foundation for community vitality.”
The Mayor also commended Community Development staff for its skillful NSP launch and for handling an overwhelming number of housing program applications. About 900 applications were requested, and the staff fielded hundreds of phone calls to help individuals understand how to apply for the funding available.
In addition to promoting homeownership, the Mayor reiterated his commitment to strengthening neighborhoods through other programs that allow residents to maintain and remain in their homes. HUD’s allocation of federal housing dollars comes to the City each year, about $1.3 million, helping to fund many programs, such as down payment assistance and homeowner rehabilitation, as well as targeted programs for seniors, persons with disabilities, and others.
In 2007, the Allen County Fort Wayne Comprehensive Plan identified several trends affecting housing and neighborhoods in Fort Wayne. The first trend noted was a decrease in homeownership rates within the urban core of Fort Wayne. The city has lower homeownership rates than the national average and those in Indiana. In some areas, such as the southeast, ownership rates are below 50 percent, and much of the rental stock is in poor condition. Neighborhoods with high rental rates are often the ones that exhibit some degree of deterioration.
State HUD officials wanted to reassure the community that homeownership is still a viable option for many families. The wrong lesson to draw from the foreclosure crisis, they said, is that low- and moderate-income families cannot be homeowners. What low- and moderate-income aspiring homeowners may need is homeownership counseling, protection through fair housing laws and a mortgage product that makes financial sense for them.
The City is offering homebuyer education classes which lead prospective buyers through a pre-qualification checklist to help them prepare for finding a home. The City requires that prospective buyers who wish to access the City’s down payment assistance and NSP programs complete this course before being accepted into the programs. The training sessions help to get individuals started on the path to homeownership.