First-time home buyers have a new way to purchase homes.
Community Concepts Inc. of South Paris has received a $1.1 million federal grant to help 44 low-income families buy houses. Twenty-four of the families will participate in the long-running Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, in which families build their own houses with help from other families in the program.
But for the first time, Community Concepts will also help 20 families buy and fix up existing homes.
"We felt there are a lot of houses on the market right now that are actually good-quality homes but have been victims of foreclosure," said Sandy Albert, associate director of housing and energy. "So we thought we'd do both aspects. Building a brand-new home is a great asset, but I think there are some good existing homes out there, also, that families can afford."
The Self-Help Purchase and Rehab Program helps first-time home buyers through the application, mortgage and rehab process. Home buyers finance between $65,000 and $115,000, obtaining a 33- or 38-year mortgage through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and getting a fixed interest rate that can be lower than the average. For home buyers who need to fix up their new homes, the program will provide a rehab technician to walk them through the process and help deal with contractors.
To qualify, families cannot have owned a home in the past three years. Although they can live anywhere in Maine, their homes must be purchased in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Oxford or York counties.
The program will work with buyers with poor credit or no credit history at all, but families will be required to meet income guidelines. Guidelines range, depending on the size of the family applying and the home's location, with higher incomes allowed in Cumberland and York counties and lower incomes in Oxford County. To qualify in Androscoggin County, a single person can earn as much as $31,000 or so per year and a family of four can earn up to about $44,000. There is no administrative fee and home buyers pay nothing to Community Concepts.
More than 100 people are on a waiting list for the older Community Concepts program that helps families build their own houses. But while that program is popular, it requires a high level of involvement — 30 hours of construction work each week for several months — and the commitment can be impossible for some people to make, particularly those who work long hours or have young children who need baby-sitters. The new purchase program will allow families to own their own homes without the upfront time commitment.
Twenty homes will be purchased through the program over the next two years, all on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information, go to www.community-concepts.org or call Susan Bradford at 739-6514.