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Grant Program Creates Opportunities for Homeownership in Cincinnati

Wells Fargo LIFT program homeownership CincinnatiWells Fargo & Company is teaming with several housing organizations to announce the formation of the Cincinnati chapter of the Wells Fargo NeighborhoodLIFT program, an initiative designed to offer $5.2 million from Wells Fargo to improve Cincinnati neighborhoods and increase homeownership in the area.

Wells Fargo, NeighborWorks America, The Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati, Neighborhood Housing Services of Hamilton, and Cincinnati Mayer John Cranley joined together earlier this week to announce the formation of the new program, which will begin with a two-day free homebuyer event on November 21 and 22 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Downtown Cincinnati.

"Making homeownership more affordable and revitalizing our neighborhoods will help make Cincinnati a stronger community," Cranley said. "This terrific public-private collaboration will make a tremendous difference for families and neighborhoods through sustainable homeownership."

Out of the $5.2 million Wells Fargo is committing to the program, about $4.2 million will go toward down payment assistance grants, which are available to eligible homebuyers designed to help them overcome the barrier of putting forth a sufficient down payment to own a home. To receive a $15,000 down payment assistance grant, a homebuyer must have an annual income that does not exceed 120 percent of the Cincinnati area median income (about $82,000 for a family of four).

The prospective homeowner must also meet other criteria to receive the down payment assistance grant, including completing an eight-hour homebuyer education session with The Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati or another approved agency. To receive the full amount of the LIFT program grant, the homeowner must commit to live in the home for five years and qualify for a first mortgage. Homeowners may also use the down payment assistance grant to purchase a home that needs improvement by utilizing a new mortgage purchase 203k renovation loan. The down payment assistance program may be combined with other down payment assistance programs.

"This innovative collaboration between NeighborWorks America, our network member, The Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati, Inc., and Wells Fargo will put more Cincinnati families and individuals on the path to homeownership," said Corinne Cahill, senior relationship manager of the Midwest Region at NeighborWorks America. "The required housing counseling and education classes, provided by certified professionals, have been shown to help homebuyers achieve successful and sustainable homeownership."

In addition to the money Wells Fargo is putting up for the down payment assistance grants, the bank is offering $500,000 toward the stabilization and improvement of Cincinnati neighborhoods.

"Like many communities, Cincinnati neighborhoods were significantly affected by the housing crisis," said J.R. Huber, area manager with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. "While mortgages are available at relatively low interest rates, many families are unable to buy a home because they struggle with making the down payment. The NeighborhoodLIFT program can help local mortgage-ready homebuyers realize their dreams of owning a home."

Wells Fargo has now committed a total of $220 million to 30 housing markets through its LIFT programs with the addition of Cincinnati's Neighborhood LIFT program. LIFT programs have helped more than 7,850 homeowners purchase homes since February 2012. Cincinnati is the eight city to receive the program in 2014.

"The Home Ownership Center is proud to help families qualify for the Wells Fargo NeighborhoodLIFT program down payment assistance grants," said Rick Williams, president and chief executive officer of The Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati. "This investment will help individuals and families become homeowners, and support our larger community. It’s a smart time for families to invest in homeownership and to be first in line to access the down payment grants, people can register to start working with The Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati."

About Author: Brian Honea

Brian Honea's writing and editing career spans nearly two decades across many forms of media. He served as sports editor for two suburban newspaper chains in the DFW area and has freelanced for such publications as the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Dallas Home Improvement magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. He has written four non-fiction sports books, the latest of which, The Life of Coach Chuck Curtis, was published by the TCU Press in December 2014. A lifelong Texan, Brian received his master's degree from Amberton University in Garland.
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