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First-time homebuyers program restarted

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh announced Friday it will once again help low-income individuals and families make down payments on first homes.

Three West Virginia Banks -- CNB Bank Inc., WesBanco Bank and West Union Bank -- are joining the Federal Home Loan Bank in returning the First Front Door program to West Virginia after a four-year absence.

The banks will also help homebuyers pay closing costs on their mortgages.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined the banks in Friday's announcement that the program will be revived on June 17, when the banks will begin registering homebuyers in the program.

Neil Cotiaux, spokesman for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, said the "program was suspended in 2009 due to the Federal Home Loan Bank's relative earnings."

"The country was in a deep recession and our net income dropped," Cotiaux said. "We simply didn't have enough money to perpetuate this program along with our main community investment and housing programs.

"We put this one aside until we could build up sufficient funds for the First Front Door program again. It was simply a matter of money," Cotiaux said.

"I believe we will be able to accommodate at least 400 families in the three states where we offer these loans -- Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware."

The program is first come, first served, Cotiaux said. "It behooves anyone interested in lining up for this money to visit one of the banks and get their bid in early. The early bird gets the worm."

More West Virginia banks are expected to become part of the program during the next few weeks, according to a news release from the bank.

"Owning a home is part of the American Dream," Capito said. "It gives you a sense of pride, accomplishment and a place to create lasting memories with your family.

"I appreciate all of the hard work these institutions have done to help make responsible home ownership a possibility for many families in West Virginia," she said.

Today, $2 million has already been set aside to provide more than 400 First Front Door grants in the three states by the end of 2013.

Begun by FHLBank Pittsburgh in 1996 as the Home Buyer Equity Fund, the program was renamed First Front Door in 2006.

So far, the program has provided more than $34 million to help more than 8,500 first-time homebuyers, according to the bank.

For every $1 spent by individuals buying homes, FHLBank provides $3 in matching grant assistance, up to $5,000. FHLBank and its associate banks also work with potential homeowners to help them figure out how to finance their mortgages.

To qualify for the program, new homeowners must:

  • Not have owned a home in the past three years, either as an individual or as part of a married couple.
  • Contribute personal funds as part of down payments and closing costs for a new home.
  • Have household income below 80 percent of the area's median income, when registering for the First Front Door program.
  • Complete at least four hours of homeownership counseling, including a discussion of predatory lending, before buying a home.
  • Pay at least 15 percent of their monthly household income to pay the principal, interest, taxes and insurance related to home mortgages.
  • FHLBank Pittsburgh is one of 12 banks in the Federal Home Loan Bank System, created by Congress in 1932 to help local financial institutions in home mortgage and community development activities.

    Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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