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City ideas that work: first time homebuyers get a boost.

Jacksonville, Fla, is |Moving Up'

Saving for the downpayment on a home can be difficult for anyone, let alone public housing residents.

Thirty Jacksonville, Fla. families may soon be a step closer to moving out of public and into owner-occupied housing thanks to a new pilot program which will establish escrow accounts to help them save for downpayments and provide matching funds.

The city took initial applications for the program, called Moving Up, on January 25.

Participants will be expected to contribute at least $5 weekly to their accounts during the first year, with the contribution increasing each year to a maximum of $15 in the fifth year.

Moving Up will provide $500 to $600 a year in matching funds for a minimum of three up to a maximum of five years. After five years, the families would have a total of $5,000 to $6,000 available for a downpayment--half from their own savings and half from Moving Up matching funds.

A selection committee has begun choosing the initial participants. Applicants will be graded on a point system according to criteria such as job stability and education.

To qualify, families must have lived in public housing for at least a year and have a minimum annual gross income of $10,000.

The must also maintain steady employment while participating in the plan, attend counseling sessions on money management and home maintenance offered through local agencies, perform 75 hours of community service annually and move out of public housing within five years.

The Jacksonville Department of Housing and Urban Development will monitor participants' bank statements to ensure compliance.

When participants are ready to buy, Jacksonville HUD will refer them to local realtors. The families, whose earnings will fall in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, are expected to be able to purchase homes in the $25,000 to $35,000 range.

The local branch of Florida Community College, which will provide financial management counseling, will then train participants in the mortgage process. Funds from the escrow accounts will be sent directly to the closing table.

Moving Up is funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and Barnett Bank, which have each contributed $45,000. The bank recently created a mortgage program for low-income people and will help participants obtain financing when they are ready to purchase.

At the end of a year, Jacksonville officials will decide whether to expand Moving Up to include additional public housing families, and, if so, will seek corporate contributions.

"It's a great start," said Mayor Ed Austin in introducing the program last October. "If his project is successful, it may grow into a much larger program."

For more information, contact: Mike Martin, housing finance specialist, Housing Development Division, Jacksonville Department of Housing and Urban Development, at (904) 630-0771.
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Title Annotation:Jacksonville, Florida
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 3, 1992
Words:464
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