OPINION | Don’t miss out on Minneapolis homebuying assistance program

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The best thing we can do to heal the urban African American community is to build a socially and economically diverse community. That diversity should include a healthy mix of upper, middle and lower income homeowners and renters. Only then will our most at-risk young people have visible examples of mainstream success across the full spectrum of occupations.

The Minneapolis Advantage Program is a great opportunity to achieve this. In the trial phase of this program, last year, 80 percent of the participants bought homes in North Minneapolis. Of those, only 13 percent were African American, while 19 percent were Asian and 65 percent were White.

This great opportunity seems destined to leave the Northside Black community even more concentrated in poverty and our youth devoid of role models of color. The Black middle class must act now to undo this national urban trend. It is our call to justice and a great opportunity at the American Dream. Take advantage of the Advantage program today.

The City of Minneapolis is offering a $10,000 forgivable loan to any qualifying homebuyer who will purchase a foreclosed home. Half the area being assigned these funds is in North Minneapolis.

In addition, the Hawthorne and Jordan neighborhoods are offering an additional $5,000 and Harrison $4,000 toward the purchase of a foreclosed home, so one could get up to $15,000 toward the purchase or rehab of a home in those three neighborhoods.

There is a total of $2 million available for 200 buyers. 75 percent of those must purchase a foreclosed home, but 25 percent can be simply homes purchased on a block with a foreclosed home on it.

Here are the most frequently asked questions about the program:

What is the Minneapolis Advantage Loan program?

The Minneapolis Advantage loan program is a down payment and closing cost assistance program to help rebuild the housing market in key neighborhoods that have experienced high levels of mortgage foreclosures. The program was developed in response to the City’s “Five Point Strategy” which is designed to address the rising levels of foreclosures in various neighborhoods throughout the city.

Minneapolis Advantage offers a $10,000 zero-percent interest loan; it has no monthly payments and is forgiven at the end of five years. The loan is available to qualified homebuyers purchasing an eligible home in which they will live in an approved neighborhood.

Do I have to attend a class to participate?

All buyers must attend a Home Stretch homebuyer educational workshop before they close on their home purchase. You can call 651-659-9336 or visit www.hoc mn.org to be referred to a class location near you.

Who can qualify for the Minneapolis Advantage loan?

Anyone who is buying in a neighborhood that has been approved by the City, who qualifies for and is receiving a traditional (prime or A-rated) fixed-rate first-mortgage loan or is purchasing using cash, and meets the income limit.

Do I have to be below a certain income to qualify?

The program is divided up into two parts. The first part is funded by the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB), and it has a maximum income limit of 80 percent of the area median. The second part is funded by local funds (“Local”) and it has a limit of 120 percent of the area median.

Do I have to be a first-time homebuyer?

No.

What can I pay for with the assistance money?

The money can be applied toward closing costs, down payment, and home repair/rehab costs. All the funds must be used for these costs. The borrower may not walk away from the closing with any of this money.

Do I have to repay the assistance?

The assistance is forgiven at the end of five years. On the fifth anniversary, all the assistance is forgiven. If you sell any time before the fifth anniversary, the loan must be fully repaid.

Can I buy a house anywhere I want?

You can purchase any single family dwelling or a duplex within a neighborhood that has been identified by the City subject to the following conditions:

FHLB: The buyer must be the first purchaser after the property was foreclosed.

Local: The property must have been foreclosed or it must be on the vacant and boarded list.

The FHLB part has 22 neighborhoods and the Local part has 25 neighborhoods. To view the list of boarded and vacant homes, visit the website at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/In spections/docs/ch249online.pdf. To view address lists of foreclosed homes, see www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/fore closure/.

Can I rent the home out?

The program requires the house to be owner-occupied. If you buy a duplex, you must occupy one of the two units, but the other unit may be rented out.

What if I want to buy a townhome or condominium?

The program may not be used to buy a condominium or a townhome.

How do I apply for a Minneapolis Advantage loan?

Loans will be given on a first come-first served basis. The lender you use for your primary mortgage must contact Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation at the numbers indicated below to apply for the loan on your behalf. For properties in North Minneapolis, call 612-588-3033. For properties in South and Northeast Minneapolis, call 612-378-7985.

Don Samuels is the Minneapolis Fifth Ward city council member. He welcomes reader responses to Don.Samuels@ci.minneapolis.mn.us.

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