Guam Families Receive Home Ownership Grants

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About $662,000 allocated amongst 92 households

By Dance Aoki

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 12, 2013) – Money from abandoned and dormant bank accounts is helping families on Guam buy their first homes.

Fifteen families joined the governor at Adelup yesterday morning to receive government grants to help them to pay for closing costs or mortgage fees for their first home.

Public Law 32-36 allowed the government to transfer $1.4 million to the Guam Housing Corporation's (GHC) Housing Trust Fund, specifically for the First Time Homeowner Assistance Program.

The law, written by Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, diverted money from dormant bank accounts that normally would end up in the government's General Fund.

The First Time Homeowner's Assistance Program provides qualified applicants a grant of up to $10,000 toward the purchase or construction of their first home.

Gov. Eddie Calvo said about $662,000 of the $1.4 million in funds allocated to the GHC were distributed to 92 families as of yesterday's grant-signing.

The parents of 11-month-old Maya Maluwelmeng introduced their daughter to the governor yesterday morning as he congratulated them on the purchase of a new home.

"It will be a place for her to grow up," said Maya's mother, Jenny Regis, while Maya giggled and cooed in her arms.

Sterlyn Sotomil, another new homeowner, said another benefit of the grant process was the information that came as part of the deal.

Sotomil said grantees had to fulfill several requirements: they couldn't have any other property they'd owned previously; they couldn't owe any property taxes; and they had to take a training course in home ownership.

"I felt like I could be a real estate agent after taking the course," she said. "It made me confident to purchase my home."

Fast process

Sotomil said once she applied for the grant, the process was fast and within a few weeks, she and her family had bought a home in Asan.

Sotomil's grant paid for the closing costs on her house, which means the money she was saving for that purpose now can go toward furniture.

More opportunities

The governor and Guam Housing Corporation President Martin Benavente said they're hoping more families take advantage of this program.

The governor has said that affordable housing is a priority for his administration and he has pushed for the construction and renovation of 3,000 affordable housing units in the coming years.

GHURA programs

The board of commissioners for the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (GHURA) had its monthly meeting yesterday, where it discussed the upcoming final year of its five-year plan.

Michael Duenas, GHURA Executive Director, said the commissioners discussed the last year of a five-year plan that was implemented four years ago. This is the last year of that plan.

GHURA's home ownership program, originally implemented in 2004, was included in the current plan.

The goal of the home ownership program is to move families who currently receive Section 8 rental assistance into their own homes, with the help of homebuyers counseling, training and by providing more opportunities to buy a home.

"It's a program we've been struggling to get off the ground," Duenas said. "It's a mechanism that allows us to take a family who's receiving rental assistance and convert that to mortgage payments."

Duenas said the first challenge with the program is to find families with credit good enough to qualify for a loan.

The second challenge is finding a house they can afford, he said, and the third challenge is finding lenders willing to participate in the program.

Duenas said one successful program at GHURA is the family self-sufficiency program, which helps families on Section 8 assistance find jobs or higher-paying jobs through training.

Because they make more money, they're required to pay more in rent, he said, but the difference in rent payments is deposited in an escrow plan for the family.

Duenas said the agency still is trying to find more families who are interested in home ownership to participate in the program.

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