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Sunday, September 16, 2012

City expands affordable housing - USATODAY.com

Chandler recently received a boost to its efforts to provide affordable rental housing for low-income families and also has launched an effort to help first-time homebuyers.

On July 26, the Chandler City Council approved using $422,245 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOME Investment Partnership Program for affordable rentals in the city.

The money will be used by the Affordable Rental Movement of Mesa-based non-profit organization Save the Family, which administers the Chandler program.

Save the Family can purchase approximately four more homes to go along with the eight houses it already owns and rents to low-income families at an affordable rate.

Those previously purchased homes came from Chandler's participation in the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which began in 2008 in response to the problem of foreclosed and abandoned homes in the country.

The rental properties will be purchased within the 85225 ZIP code, an area especially hard hit by foreclosures. They can be single-family houses or multifamily units that are part of a larger complex.

The properties will be renovated by Save the Family, which also screens tenants and acts as landlord and property manager.

"One of the things we bring to the city in acquiring these foreclosed properties is we are a local agency," said Save the Family CEO Jacki Taylor. "We take our reputation very seriously. It's incumbent upon us to maintain those properties in pristine condition."

The families eligible to rent the units cannot earn more than 60percent of the area median income, which, for a family of four in Chandler, would be $39,840.

Rent for a two-bedroom apartment within the program averages $550. A typical two-bedroom apartment on the open market could cost $800 to $1,000.

Save the Family seeks to do more than provide affordable rent.

Families who need it are eligible for case-management services that provide information on financial management, job counseling and other support.

"The goal is to have the family living in the unit improve their income level to the point where they can move out," said Jennifer Morrison, Chandler Neighborhood Resources director.

"Those units serve as a steppingstone for families to become more self-sufficient and the ultimate goal is for them to move out of there."

Helping those families improve their earning potential is important in the current rental market.

During the recent economic downturn, some families that may have previously been in the market to buy a home have decided to rent while they try to figure out what the housing market is going to do.

That influx of renters makes it harder for everyone to find affordable rentals.

"They may be able to afford something a little more high end, but people are being conservative in general," said Kurt Knutson, Chandler Housing and Redevelopment manager. "That puts more constraints on the really affordable units."

First-time homebuyers will also get additional opportunities in Chandler as the result of HOME Investment Partnership Program funds.

Last month, the City Council also approved the use of $340,000 in HOME funds for the city's First Time Homebuyers Program. That program is a partnership with Tempe-based non-profit Newtown Community Development Corp.

Newtown purchases foreclosed or abandoned properties in Chandler, renovates them and sells them to income-qualified first-time homeowners. The properties are kept affordable because the land the home sits on is held in a trust administered by Newtown, and the buyer just purchases the house.

The partnership between Chandler and Newtown began in 2008 as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

"That program does a couple of things for us," Morrison said. "It stabilizes neighborhoods for a long period of time and provides home-ownership opportunities to homebuyers on a repeated basis. It's a good investment; it's a great program."

For more information about the First Time Homebuyers program, call Newtown at 480-517-1589, visit www.newtowncdc.org or call Chandler Neighborhood Resources at 480-782-4320.

By Weldon B. Johnson, The Republic|azcentral.com Sep 4, 2012


City expands affordable housing - USATODAY.com

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