BROOKSVILLE — After nearly a year of anticipation, Hernando County is ready to accept applications from qualified people for government help to purchase foreclosed homes in Spring Hill and Brooksville.
The state signed off on the county's Neighborhood Stabilization Program two weeks ago. The first phase will involve the expenditure of $4.3 million in federal money funneled through the state to help home buyers repair and purchase homes in foreclosure.
The homes must be in areas deemed to have the greatest need. Those areas are located in the city of Brooksville and throughout most of Spring Hill — an area bound roughly by Centralia Road on the north, County Line Road on the south, U.S. 19 on the west and the Suncoast Parkway on the east.
The specific areas were chosen for relief based on the percentage of foreclosures, the number of sub-prime mortgages and the risk of having more foreclosures.
Funding of up to $50,000 per approved applicant can be used to fix up homes with minimal damage, for closing costs and for down payment assistance. Applicants must meet annual moderate- to middle-income guidelines: $47,450 for a single person, $54,250 for a family of two and $61,000 for a family of three.
The funding is given as a 0 percent interest, deferred-payment loan attached to the home with a lien. If the home buyer sells the home before reaching the "affordability period'' of 10 to 15 years, the loan must be repaid. After someone lives in the home longer, the loan is forgiven.
Applicants do not have to reside in Hernando County, but once they purchase the home, it must become their primary residence.
In addition to the benefit of reducing the county's inventory of more than 3,000 homes in foreclosure, the program is expected to give some people their best chance at home ownership, while also helping area businesses related to real estate and home repair.
The hope is that within the next couple of weeks, the county is also going to be able to start accepting requests for qualifications from local businesses that want to help with the process, according to Jean Rags, director of county health and human services.
Those who qualify can be from a variety of professions, including real estate professionals, title companies, appraisers, contractors and financial institutions. The Hernando County Association of Realtors and the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce will help the county get word out about that application process.
A workshop to provide more information to businesses is expected to be set for next month.
"This is going to be a great shot in the arm'' for the community, Rags said. "This will help many, many businesses and individuals.''
A computer Web site linked to the county Health and Human Services Department, which will list all the details and requirements for the program, is expected to be up and running as early as next week, Rags said.
She said she hopes interested home buyers fill out their applications quickly because the program has a short time line. Currently, the county is required to have committed all of the funding by January, although there may be an extension because of delays that have arisen since the program was announced.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is a part of the federal Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and is administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Florida, the program is under the state's Department of Community Affairs.
During Phase 2 of the program in Hernando, $1.3 million will be made available to community-based housing providers for rental assistance for low-income residents. Rags expects that information to be available in the coming weeks.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.