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Program puts house keys into hands

By RITA FARLOW
Published May 30, 2007


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Paul Peterson is finally home.

The 26-year-old St. Petersburg native returned after more than six years in the Marine Corps and seven months of active duty in Iraq.

He recently purchased his first home - a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo - with a little help from the city's WIN affordable housing program.

"I don't think I could have afforded it without the WIN program. ... It's a blessing, " he said.

The program offers interest-free loans from $6, 000 to $20, 000, depending on the applicant's family income. For instance, someone who makes between 50 and 80 percent of St. Petersburg's median family income (MFI) can qualify for a $15, 000 loan. (For a family of four, the MFI in St. Petersburg for 2006 was $54, 400, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.)

Buyers in special incentive areas can qualify for an additional $10, 000, said Tom de Yampert, the city's housing and community development manager.

The loans can be used for a down payment, closing costs or to buy down the interest rate. Loans are either repaid at 0 interest for 10 years, or deferred for 30 years or until the home is sold, depending on the applicant's median family income.

"It's not a first-time homebuyer program. It's here to assist anyone who wants to buy a home in St. Pete, " de Yampert said.

The WIN program also offers assistance to homeowners for emergency home repairs or removal of lead paint. Buyers should let their lenders know they're interested in the WIN program, de Yampert said.

Separate city loan programs offer interest-free loans to eligible Pinellas County Schools' staffers and St. Petersburg police officers.

Before his honorable discharge in August 2005, Peterson spent seven months in Iraq providing reconnaissance and police support with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

Peterson, who reached the rank of sergeant and served as a radio repairman, said he stumbled upon Vantage Point Condominiums on Gandy Boulevard while riding his bike one day. "I thought the property looked nice, so I pulled in, " he said. "(But) I wasn't sure I could afford it."

A sales associate told him about the WIN program. Peterson said his $15, 000 WIN loan brought the purchase price for his condo down to $102, 000, putting it within his reach.

Peterson said he started to think about buying his own home while he was leasing a duplex he shared with a roommate.

"I didn't want to pay somebody else's mortgage and I thought it would be good to have a place to call my own, " he said.

[Last modified May 30, 2007, 07:21:34]


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