Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | 1:15 p.m.
A recent privately funded program aimed at helping Las Vegas residents buy a home won accolades Wednesday from the Las Vegas City Council.
“You brought back hope," Ward 6 Councilman Steve Ross told the organizers of the recent Neighborhood LIFT event, which took place at the Riviera.
The program, sponsored by Wells Fargo, is aimed at putting people into some of the hundreds of empty residential properties in the city, including in the city’s hard-hit Ward 6 (see map) neighborhood.
The program provides up to $15,000 in down payment assistance grants for qualified homebuyers seeking to purchase a home within the city limits.
Wells Fargo's goal is to provide $1 billion in mortgage purchase loans over the next five years.
Initial results showed that 1,100 people attended theRiviera event, said Kirk Clausen, Wells Fargo's Nevada regional president.
Of those, 320 prospective homebuyers reserved $4.857 million of the $7.2 million set aside for the program, Clausen said.
"We talk about these large amounts of money that Wells Fargo is coming up with to do this," Ross said. "This is money being re-invested right back into this city, right back into our economy, family by family."
Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the city is proud to be a partner in the program and looks forward to the next event, which hasn't yet been scheduled.
The May 4-5 event at the Riviera was also coupled with the city's own program to provide up to $50,000 to people who purchase a home in a certain foreclosed area or who buy a foreclosed home.
Clausen said the local event to kick off the program was more successful than similar down payment assistance programs the company has held in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Phoenix.
Like the other three cities, Las Vegas was chosen based on the city's high concentration of homeowner foreclosures, delinquencies and overall housing inventory.
"This was perhaps the best one. And I hope we can do some more down the road," he said. "It will take us a while to get through $1 billion in committed mortgage funds."
The down payment assistance program is a collaboration between Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Wells Fargo Foundation and NeighborWorks America.
Clausen said that at the Riviera event, 617 people signed up for the homeowner education program sponsored by the Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada.
Nearly 100 people took part in a bus tour of the featured foreclosed homes in the program, he said.
"We hope to have many more homes become part of the program," Clausen said.
Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony said he attended the May 4 event and was impressed at how organized it was.
"That probably was a good feeling for people who are really in distress today over this housing thing," Anthony said. "People were having a good time down there and were walking out of the place with possibly a home."
Anthony said he hopes other banks in the valley would make similar commitments.
Interested homebuyers should go to www.neighborhoodlift.com for more information.
Funds from the Neighborhood LIFT program can't be used to buy properties owned by Wells Fargo.