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New homeowners credit Chandler program

/ Source: East Valley Tribune

Tera Dennis, a single mom who just received her certification as a medical X-ray technician, is the kind of new homeowner Chandler officials had in mind when they created a program to turn foreclosed homes into affordable housing.

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Dennis, 28, is slated to move into her new three-bedroom home on West Greentree Drive in October. Right now, she and her young son are living with her parents.

"I just needed to get my own place. My dad and my brother found this program," she said.

In May, the City Council ratified an agreement with NewTown Community Land Trust wherein the city would buy up to 17 foreclosed homes using $1.4 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for "neighborhood stabilization."

The homes sit in the 85225 ZIP code, an area bounded by Elliot and Ray roads, and Arizona Avenue and Alma School Road, where the foreclosure rate has approached 40 percent, city officials have said. The program is aimed at preventing the neighborhood's decay because of the high vacancy rate.

The trust retains title to the land, while potential homeowners purchase only the home itself, meaning a more affordable price. The idea is to attract people who form part of the community's core work force but who otherwise might not be able to afford a home in Chandler, such as firefighters, police and teachers, officials have said.

Stephanie Garcia, Chandler Neighborhood Resources Division programs administrator, said the process is ramping up. She said two recent informational workshops each attracted about 50 people.

Dennis said her new home is expected to cost her about $100,000. The land trust is kicking in about $65,000 to renovate the home, she said.

Another formerly vacant home on North Pleasant Drive will soon be occupied by retirees Joyce and Richard Maynard. The Maynards also expect to move in around mid-October after 45 days of renovations, including new carpeting, new paint inside and out and new appliances such as a washer and dryer. The land trust will bring the home up to code and landscape the yard with stone, as well, Joyce Maynard said.

"It will be like new," she said.

The couple for years has been living in a problem-plagued 1972 mobile home in Mesa. Maynard said she and her husband are on a fixed income and couldn't afford their own home without the Chandler program.

"This is a miracle, because there's just no way," she said. "We're used to opening up the curtains and seeing a mobile home next door."

The couple attended a workshop with NewTown after hearing about the program from their daughter. The next day, they were meeting with a mortgage company, and soon after, they began to look at foreclosed homes in the program's target area.

"This one clicked," she said.

Their mortgage payment on the new place is $568 a month.

She said NewTown was helpful and supportive.

"They are so attentive and make sure you understand everything," Maynard said.

Allen Carlson, NewTown executive director, said there has been strong interest in the program.

"I think people realize this is a great time to buy a house," he said. "There are some good deals out there."

Although there have been 35 applications so far for the remaining supply of 15 homes, the nonprofit is encouraging people to apply. Only about one in 10 applicants are prepared to complete the qualifying process right away, he said.

"The houses aren't spoken for," Carlson said.

The sale of trust homes is restricted to people who earn between 80 percent and 120 percent of the area's median income of $51,350 a year for a family of four, officials have said.

The amount each new homeowner will pay is based on income, he said. Monthly payments can't exceed 33 percent of household income. New homeowners generally will pay about $65,000 to $75,000 less than the trust puts into buying and rehabilitating each home, he said. The balance is subsidized by the federal stimulus funds.

Each home would have to be owner-occupied, and not rented. Any subsequent owners would have to meet those conditions, officials have said.