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October 14, 2013

FCDP: Affordable housing is positive

Virginia Avenue open house Tuesday

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Community Development Partnership wants people in the area to realize that homeownership could be a possibility for them.

Executive director Bob Gribben believes the negative perceptions of what is refered to as affordable housing need to be shattered. Affordable housing is, in fact, positive, he said.

“We believe that the term affordable housing frequently carries a stereotype which deters apt buyers,” Gribben said. “It is proper for the government to incentivize homeownership by providing special program opportunities, and we want people in our community to know that and what can be available to help them get an ownership start.

“The government has similar programs for businesses. Our government should be supporting such programs, and our people should partake.”

The FCDP is involved in one of the steps of affordable housing, which is to assist people who are employed and capable of homeownership but need a jump start to move forward, he said. The organization is in the process of building nice, attractive homes for low- to moderate-income families.

The FCDP invites members of the public to attend an open house at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Fairmont at 833 Virginia Ave., which is the most recent house that the partnership constructed.

Prior to the open house, the organization will hold its board meeting in the second-floor conference room of the Marion County Health Department building at 5 p.m.

Gribben said some recent purchasers of homes built by the FCDP will be present at the open house, as well as people who are candidates for new houses. Attendees will have the chance to see if they fit into the FCDP’s requirements, talk to board members and new or potential home owners, and see inside one of these homes.

“We have quality, affordable housing,” he said. “We have really good contractors, we have good designs, and we have really good quality control.”

Mike Walker, property manager for the FCDP, said the home at 833 Virginia Ave. is under contract and move-in ready. The future homeowner is currently waiting on a closing date.

The contractor, Daycon Construction, spent about six months completing the house, he said. This single-family, stand-alone home has three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, includes all appliances, and is energy efficient. It features wood and vinyl on the bottom floor and carpet on the second level.

The home is consistent with the style and model of the other houses on Virginia Avenue, Walker said.

In 2014, the FCDP is anticipating building six to eight homes in the Maple/Ogden/Jackson Addition area as well as additional housing in the Southside area, Gribben said. These properties will be either single-family purchase homes or single-family rentals.

Every year, the FCDP applies for funding from different sources for its projects. Its primary grant providers are the West Virginia Housing Development Fund, NeighborWorks America, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh.

Walker explained that credit score and debt-to-income ratio are two important guidelines that come into play for families in the FCDP’s homeownership program. He said the homebuyer for 833 Virginia Ave. has a 502 Home Ownership Loan, through a partnership between USDA Rural Development and JustChoice Lending, which offers a low interest rate and requires no downpayment.

But the loan choice is up to the buyer, who could also decide to go through a conventional bank or use other programs, Gribben said.

Walker said the FCDP guides people and determines how to best fit their needs. Individuals are required to complete a homebuyer education course through the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority. This class helps them explore different choices for lending sources, provides opportunities for credit counseling, and offers other insights into the steps of buying a home.

“Through the partnership, we provide them with knowledge that they may not be able to obtain on their own,” he said.

Gribben added that education, planning and discipline are key factors in becoming a homeowner. While there’s always some “red tape” involved in buying any house, the process with the FCDP’s homeownership program isn’t overwhelming, he said.

Walker said people take a lot of pride in home ownership and are excited to have a place that belongs to them.

“It’s an investment, as compared to paying rent,” Gribben said. “It’s their home.”

While new homeowners have to follow the code regulations like anyone else, they have the ability to make choices and changes regarding their space, he said.

Gribben said sometimes people don’t realize that homeownership could be within their budget, and they give up too early. The government funds these kinds of projects in order to help people move toward becoming homeowners.

“We certainly like to see local people take advantage of this,” he said. “We will work with them to help them get their ducks lined up.”

For more information, call the FCDP at 304-366-7600.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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