House into a home
House into a home
By Stella M. Chßvez
BOYNTON BEACH + As a single parent and teacher living on a moderate
income, Mike Marzelli couldn't afford most new homes on the market
But with the help of an affordable housing program, Marzelli's
dream of owning a house came true three months ago.
"It saved me a great
deal of money," Marzelli said. "They helped me lower my monthly payments and
made me attend a seminar on home buying, which I thought was going to be a huge
waste of time. But it turned out to be very informative."
alone. Since the city's State Housing Initiative Partnership Program began in
1997, Boynton Beach has seen the number of first time home buyer like Marzelli
increase beyond expectation, officials say.
As one of the program's
requirements, the city must send the state a three-year plan, which gives
projections for the number of first-time homebuyers and the number of homes that
could be repaired. In the 2000-2003 plan, program officials anticipated helping
eight first-time home buyers and rehabilitating 14 homes. But since the
beginning of the 2000 fiscal year, the program has helped 23 first-time
homeowners and repaired 22 homes. Program officials also have estimated they
will be able to help an additional 13 first-time home buyers and fix-up 15
existing homes in the coming months.
Since the program's inception in
1997, a total of 58 people have bought new homes while a total of 42 homes have
Octavia Sherrod, the city's community development
director, said the numbers speak for themselves. Part of the program's success
is a result of the state increasing the annual amount it awards to cities, she
said. Also, the city now has a person, Brenda Cornelius, solely dedicated to
administering the affordable housing program.
"It's really progressing,"
Sherrod said. "When we initially started out, I was the SHIP administrator and I
did the [Community Development Block Grant] program as well, so it was kind of
For the current budget year, the state has allocated about
$127 million in SHIP funds. The amount is distributed among cities according to
population with each county receiving at least $350,000, according to state
The money each city receives pays for a variety of expenses,
including emergency repairs, new construction, rehabilitation, down payment and
closing cost assistance, buying property and home ownership counseling programs.
For fiscal year 2000-2001, the state gave Boynton Beach $605,134 -- more than
double the amount it got during the first year of the program.
said people who are eligible for the program fall into three categories: very
low income, low income and moderate income.
required to take a home ownership class that teaches everything from tips on
paying a mortgage to the structural details of a house.
Experts such as
Jamie Ross, interim executive director of the Tallahassee-based advocacy group
Florida Housing Coalition, say such classes help ensure the program's success.
Some municipalities have added credit-repair programs that work with families
for a few years before they actually buy a new house.
"The catalyst has
been the SHIP program," Ross said.
But the need to help poor or
limited-income families remains greater than ever.
"The need is not being
met," said Nancy Muller, housing policy coordinator for the Florida Housing
Finance Corporation. "Right now, we know that there are a high number of
Floridians who have problems being able to pay for their housing each
Stella M. Chßvez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Copyright © 2001, South Florida
Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel