Prince George’s homebuyers scramble for funds after assistance program temporarily dries up -- Gazette.Net


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Willie Lawson was ready to close on a house in Hyattsville on Nov. 16, excited at the prospect of owning his first home and looking forward to inviting his mother to spend Thanksgiving dinner at his new place, which he had saved money for for months. A Nov. 8 call from his realtor regarding a down payment assistance program he had applied for has placed those plans in jeopardy.

“She told me there was no money [in the program],” said Lawson, 49, of College Park. “It devastated me. My mother lives in Greensboro, [N.C.], and I was hoping I could have spent Thanksgiving with her up here for the first time in a couple years. But now all this got squashed.”

Realtors and homebuyers are incensed over a Nov. 7 announcement by the Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development that $2.1 million in federal funds for the My Home program, which provided down payment and closing cost assistance for first-time county homebuyers, had been depleted without prior warning to the real estate community.

But county officials said the lack of funds is only temporary and the program, which started in March 2011, will be restored before the end of the year.

Rosalyn Clemens, My Home program manager, said in the release that “until further notice, no applications for funding will be accepted.”

DHCD spokeswoman Alexis Yeoman said Tuesday the agency has been preparing administrative changes to the program, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must sign off before more funds can roll in. Yeoman said DHCD will send the proposal to HUD next week, and will likely have final approval within the next month.

“We had hoped to have [the changes] resolved by now,” she said. “When we realized there would be a period where we had to suspend the program, we sent out the notification.”

Yeoman said the 27 applications still in the pipeline will be approved or put on a waiting list.

“Although I don’t have a specific number [on how many will receive funding], those that get put on the waiting list will be considered first when the new money comes in,” she said.

Carl Allen, vice president of the Mitchellville-based Prince George’s Real Estate Professionals, said in previous funding rounds, members of the housing industry were given at least a month’s notice that funds were running low.

“You need to project when a program is going to run out of money so people can plan accordingly,” Allen said.

Karen Rhodes, a Temple Hills-based realtor representing Lawson, said while homebuyers applying for My Home funds may be eligible for other forms of assistance, they will need to spend more money on new appraisals and inspections.

“Homebuyers are put in a position where they have to change lenders [and] start all over again,” Rhodes said. “They’ll have to get a new appraisal that they’ve already paid for once, and new home inspections.”

Lawson said he has already spent upward of $1,500 on appraisals and inspections, making the idea of applying for another assistance program daunting. He said since last week, he has been looking to family members to loan him the last $2,500 he needs for the down payment.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I can’t even concentrate at work, sitting at my desk and trying to figure out where to get the extra funds from.”

ewagner@gazette.net