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BofA mortgage program reaches Tampa market

The $3-billion community development effort will offer low-cost loans to buyers in 20 cities nationwide.

Home buyers in Tampa and 19 other cities nationwide will be targeted for $3-billion worth of low-cost mortgage loans under a new program by Bank of America Corp.

The Charlotte, N.C., bank, which still operates as NationsBank in Florida, forged the program with the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America (NACA) to help low- and moderate-income families.

Eligible home buyers will not have to pay closing costs, down payments or application fees. NACA, which has offices in 20 cities, including Tampa and Jacksonville, will offer housing services for free, including follow-up counseling and credit help after a deal closes.

Bruce Marks, NACA's chief executive, said the program will help people with credit problems or no savings who previously could expect to pay interest rates of 12 percent or more. The new loans come with market-based interest rates near 7 percent.

Marks predicted the program will set "a national standard" for providing low-income mortgage loans.

Three years ago, NationsBank and NACA funneled $500-million in low-cost loans into a four-city pilot program.

The expanded program will be available immediately in Tampa; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo, N.Y.; Charlotte; Jacksonville; Memphis, Tenn.; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento, Calif.; and Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, Texas. Within 12 months, the loans will be offered in New York City; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Albuquerque, N.M.; San Diego and Little Rock, Ark.

Jerri Franz, a spokeswoman with NationsBank Florida, said the funds should finance more than 30,000 mortgages at an average price of $100,000.

Bank of America, whose NationsBank franchise is the largest bank in Florida, made more than $8-billion in home mortgage loans last year.

The new mortgage program flows out of a community lending promise that Bank of America made last year to appease federal regulators before they approved the merger of the former NationsBank of Charlotte and BankAmerica Corp. of San Francisco.

The bank has pledged to make at least $115-billion in affordable housing loans during the next 10 years as part of a $350-billion commitment to community development.

In February, NationsBank Florida began offering first-time and low-income home buyers a zero down payment option and less stringent credit checks to make it easier to get a mortgage.