2 Alaska CUs In Pilot To Help 1st-Time Buyers

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Two Alaska-based credit unions are among four originating lenders participating in a pilot program designed to assist first-time home buyers.

Fairbanks-based Northern Schools FCU, along with Anchorage-based Alaska USA FCU will be assisting families through the "Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program." To qualify for the pilot program-which, in Alaska, is limited to 10 families-either the head of the household or the spouse must have a permanent physical, mental or developmental disability.

The program is the result of a partnership involving financial institutions, realtors, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Agency, and Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. The latter is a state agency that manages 4,000 housing choice vouchers, which provide rental assistance to low-income Alaskans through private landlords.

Three years ago, HUD ruled individuals and families could use their "Section 8" vouchers toward homeownership, as an alternative to rental assistance. In addition to the disability requirement, qualifying borrowers must have completed a one-year rental lease under the HCV program, be a first-time home buyer, have a minimum income of $6,624 per year, and have 3% of the purchase price available for down payment, with 1% from the borrower's personal resources. The USDA Rural Development Agency provides 80% funding, with the originating lender funding 20%.

More than 600 U.S. homes have closed under the HCV program, but the first for Alaska did not take place until Antonia Fondycz qualified in December 2003. According to Mary Machacek, mortgage loan officer at Northern Schools FCU, Fondycz "introduced" the credit union to the program. "She had heard of the new program and wanted to do it, so she came in to our main branch in April," recalled Machacek. "She wasn't a member then, but she is now."

Fondycz had been in the HCV rental program for more than a year, and she met the other eligibility requirements.

"Getting her the loan went very smooth," Machacek said. "It was a group effort by everybody involved. We recently approved a second woman for a loan. With the program limited to 10 participants in the state, we think it is neat that Northern Schools will do two of them."

Nancy Usera, senior vice president of corporate development at Alaska USA FCU, said three to four possible program participants are being evaluated, and one is close to closing.

"Alaska USA has partnerships with 18 different programs that help special applicants obtain mortgages," she said. "The new program by Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is great because it gets people into their own homes."

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