Grants available for low-income Buncombe County first-time homebuyers

Press release from OnTrack WNC:

OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling (OnTrack WNC) is expanding the HomeRun Homeownership Program to low-income households in Buncombe County. The program includes comprehensive financial/housing education and counseling, plus an opportunity for participants to receive a $2.00 “match” for every $1.00 saved towards homeownership. Services provided for FREE to participants include: credit counseling, homebuyer education, one-on-one coaching support, credit reports and scores, and tax preparation services.

According to Celeste Collins, OnTrack WNC Executive Director, the HomeRun program began in 2010 with a grant from the US Department of Treasury and was limited to residents of Mountain Housing Opportunities’ Complexes. “We are thrilled to expand the program and anticipate a strong response from interested homebuyers,” said Collins. “The match money helps to fill a funding gap that often prohibits people with low-incomes from purchasing their first home.”

Participants must currently be Buncombe County residents, first-time homebuyers, and their annual household income must be at or below 80% Area Median Income at time of enrollment. For example, the income maximum for a three-person household is $40,000. Additionally, at the time of enrollment participants must have at least one year of stable income, be able to make a savings deposit of at least $35.00 per month for six consecutive months, and plan to purchase a home by December 31, 2014.

Since the program provides a matching grant, not a loan, participants never have to pay the money back. The match amount is based on how much they save. For example, if a participant saves $250, their match would be $500; if they save $2500, they are eligible for the maximum match of $5,000. Funds can be used in conjunction with Mountain Housing Opportunities’ Down Payment Assistance, USDA Rural Development loans, and other programs for first-time homebuyers.

The Hartshorns, a family with two young children, wanted to buy their first home but were not sure where to begin. They enrolled in the HomeRun program and upon completion had received over 25 hours of financial and housing counseling, coaching, and education. “Now we track literally every penny; we budget for everything. We wouldn’t have this house if we didn’t do things that way,” commented Valerie Hartshorn. When they saved $2,500 towards their new home, HomeRun matched that with another $5,000.

Limited funding is available and participants must purchase a home by December 31, 2014. Match money is not guaranteed until participants complete the program requirements and are under contract to purchase a home. OnTrack WNC plans to fill enrollment by mid-August and encourages interested homebuyers to call as soon as possible to take the first step towards securing an enrolled position. Program completion takes a minimum of six months.

OnTrack is currently registering interested homebuyers for July workshops. For more information or to take the first step towards enrollment, call 255-5166 and ask about the HomeRun Program.


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