Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | 1:45 p.m.
If you're thinking about buying a home in Las Vegas, you might want to see if you're eligible for a new program that could eliminate your down payment.
A new privately funded initiative that could help some 500 income-eligible people buy a home within the Las Vegas city limits was announced today by Wells Fargo and Las Vegas city officials.
"It will have a huge impact on our community and the housing market," Mayor Carolyn Goodman said at a press conference held at City Hall.
The program would provide up to $15,000 in down payment assistance grants for qualified homebuyers seeking to purchase a home within the city limits.
"The city has an additional program that may help provide even more financial assistance — up to $50,000 to people who purchase homes in a certain foreclosure area or a foreclosed home," Goodman said.
Las Vegas fourth city in program
Today’s announcement was designed to publicize the upcoming Wells Fargo Neighborhood LIFT event, which will take place May 4 and 5 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino.
Kirk Clausen, Wells Fargo's Nevada regional president, said the Riviera event has been designed to help attract qualified homebuyers to Las Vegas neighborhoods struggling with a high inventory of unsold homes.
Clausen said Wells Fargo's goal is to provide $1 billion in mortgage purchase loans over the next five years, plus make a $9 million investment this year for the down payment assistance program and homebuyer support programs.
Part of the $9 million will include $1.15 million given to the city in support of local priority initiatives, which would be decided by the city, he said.
The down payment assistance program, a collaboration between Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Wells Fargo Foundation and NeighborWorks America, has also been held in in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Phoenix, he said.
Like the other three cities, Las Vegas was chosen based on the city's high concentration of homeowner foreclosures, delinquencies and overall housing inventory, he said.
Those programs have helped 893 potential homebuyers qualify for down payment assistance, totaling more than $20 million, he said.
At the May 4-5 Riviera event, prospective homebuyers can participate in affordable home tours of residential properties for sale in the city.
They can also apply for down payment assistance grants of up to $15,000, which will be distributed by the local NeighborWorks America affiliate, the Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada.
Those qualifying for the grants must have incomes that fall below 120 percent of the local median income, which is $79,200 for a family of four. They would also have to agree to stay in the home for five years and qualify for a first mortgage on the property.
Interested homebuyers should go to www.neighborhoodlift.com to make a reservation, he said.
Funds from the Neighborhood LIFT program can't be used to buy properties owned by Wells Fargo, he said.
Ward 6 to benefit from program
Goodman said the Wells Fargo down payment program and the city's program to help sell foreclosed properties would help put people into some of the hundreds of empty residential properties in the city’s Ward 6 (see map) neighborhood.
"I'm a little happy about this — and that's an understatement," said Ward 6 Councilman Steve Ross.
Ross said when he was told about the Wells Fargo program, "I was absolutely ecstatic — floored is a better description of how I was."
"Nowhere are these funds more desperately needed than in Ward 6, which has been hit extremely hard by the foreclosure crisis," Ross said. "And there are some beautiful homes sitting vacant that are in desperate needs of new families."
Ross said that what impressed him about the program was that not only was Wells Fargo providing down payment assistance, but Wells Fargo was providing other support programs to help potential homebuyers with home-buying counseling programs.
"I am really thrilled that we have a community partner that is willing to get our housing market back on track," he said. "I hope this will be a call to action for the other lending institutions to take similar actions to help us re-energize our community in making home ownership more attainable."
Program a complement to city's program for foreclosed homes
The Wells Fargo program is a good complement to the city's neighborhood stabilization and homebuyer program, said Tim Whitright, who manages that program.
Whitright said the program uses federal Housing and Urban Development funds to acquire, rehabilitate foreclosed homes and make them ready for sale to qualified families.
"This can be coupled with the assistance from Wells Fargo," Whitright said. "We're going to be reoccupying these homes, making sure that our neighborhoods are stabilized and they are healthy."
Lenny Chide, president and executive director of NHS Southern Nevada, said compared to other affordable housing programs in the area, the Wells Fargo program "blows those away."
Chide said eligible incomes on most government affordable housing programs are eligible to people with incomes amounting to 80 percent of the area median income, or about about $52,000 for a family of four. But this program brings in more people, allowing incomes of up to $79,200 for a family of four to qualify, he said.
Also, most programs require that you have to be a first-time homebuyer. But this one allows previous homeowners — as long as you sell your current home before the deal is closed, you qualify, Chide said.
"Our goal is to help as many families as we can," he said. He predicted they would be able to help at least 425 families buy a home during the next two years.