There's no need to flee South; you can buy a home on Long Island.
That was the word from lawmakers and some first-time home buyers at a press conference in Huntington Station on Monday to spread the news about a pool of $500,000 in United States Department of Housing and Urban Development funds available through the Suffolk County HOME Consortium.
The program offers $10,000 to qualified applicants toward the down payment on a Suffolk County home, condominium or cooperative apartment not exceeding $322,790 in value.
"I'm so happy to see that this program is continuing....It works," said Andrew Tardieu, standing with his wife in front of their home on Bayley Lane, which was purchased in January with the help of the program.
County Executive Steve Bellone called the on-going program a "pivotal step" in the home-buying process in a housing market that's taken a hit during the last few years.
"I think we all recognize and understand homeownership is a critical component to the health and strength of our communities," Bellone said. "We should be encouraging homeownership, not the kind of thing we saw in the past."
Despite reported increases in foreclosure rates, Bellone said the program won't cause people to get in over their heads with mortgages this time.
"The lessons we've learned from the housing crisis will prevent that from happening," he said.
Also in attendance on July 16 was Maria Bedoya, a recent program participant who was with her husband, Walter, who couldn't speak English.
"Thank you very much; my dream is true," Bedoya said.
To qualify applicants must be first-time home buyers as defined by HUD as a household that hasn't owned a home during the three-year period immediately prior to the purchase of a residence with HOME funding.
Only low- to moderate-income households with a minimum annual income of $30,000 and a maximum not to exceed 80 percent of the area median income may apply. Each must have $3,000 banked at the time of the application and be able to obtain a qualified mortgage.
When asked by Patch if first-time home buyers who make a little too much to qualify for the program would now be encouraged to make a little less, Bellone said he'd like to see more federal funding.
"We have programs that come from the federal government, and unfortunately we've seen a lot of cuts at the same time these programs would help a lot more people," Bellone said.
Homeownership is vital to our communities, according to County Legislator Lou D'Amaro, speaking in his Huntington Station legislative district on Monday.
"It's very important we can keep people in their homes and prevent the brain drain from happening and things like that," D'Amaro said.
Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer (D-Huntington) said the program is important in terms of changing culture a "culture of despair" created when people sometimes lose homes because of unemployment.
"Programs like this create a culture of hope," Spencer said.
The HOME Consortium down payment, equal to a zero-percent interest loan, must be repaid by accepted applicants who're required to sign a Note and Mortgage to the lending institute.
Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) encouraged potential homeowners to take advantage of low interest rates in a down economy.
"All too often it comes down to the down payment, and that's what makes this program so critically important," Stern said.
Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland said it was wonderful to hear new funds have been made available.
"We look forward to as many people getting this assistance as possible," Berland said.
Applications will be accepted through September 30 on a first-come, first-served basis by mail only.
Form requests could be made through the Community Development Office website or by calling 631-853-5705.
2012 Income Guidelines:Household Size Max Income 1 $60,200 2 $68,800 3 $77,400 4 $86,000 5 $92,900 6 $99,750 7 $106,650 8 or more $113,500