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Affordable Housing Opportunities for All Rural Nevadans

February 15, 2021 by  
Filed under Community

Affordable Housing Opportunities for All Rural Nevadans


“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelou, “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes”

Nails and beams. Insulation and paint. They’re just some of the things we use to build a house, but they’re not what make a home. To us, home is a feeling – to us, home is what everyone needs and deserves. The Nevada Rural Housing’s mission is to promote, provide and finance affordable housing opportunities for all rural Nevadans, and we live by that mission. Helping fulfill that human craving for a safe place where you can go as you are — it’s what we do.

The Nevada Rural Housing Authority’s story began in 1973 as Nevada’s first housing agency. Over the past five decades, our programs and services have diversified, our clients broadened. “From homeless to homebuyer” — it’s an appropriate way to describe who we serve. Affordable housing is relative, not only reserved for the extremely low-income. Affordable housing is for everyone, and our programs and services are designed to serve and align with our mission.

If it’s not housing and it’s not mission-aligned, we don’t do it.

So, what do we do?

We help rural renters by paying a portion of their rent through the Housing Choice Voucher program. And through the Cares Housing Assistance Program, we’ve assisted 1,000+ renters throughout rural Nevada whose incomes have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and we will continue our COVID relief work into the foreseeable future.

We help communities understand their housing needs. We find opportunities to rehabilitate existing housing and build new housing. We oversee the management of 612 units on 13 property sites plus seven single-family rentals, all throughout rural Nevada. The majority of our residents are seniors and disabled individuals.

We operate the Weatherization and Home Repair program in the rural parts of the state, which provides audits, repairs and improvements for qualifying households, many of whom are seniors aging in place.

And we have provided nearly $2 billion in mortgages and nearly $55 million in down payment assistance to rural Nevada homebuyers through Nevada Rural Housing Authority’s Home At Last homeownership program – we call it “HAL” for short. That down payment assistance and other affordable homeownership tools in our HAL toolbox have helped more than 9,000 families achieve their dreams of owning a home. And that’s how we measure our success — not by applications and closings, but by the number of lives we can change through the power of homeownership.

Indeed, homeownership can be life changing. The tangible benefits are evident:

The walls are yours to paint (That fuschia you’ve been dreaming of? Do it!).

The yard is yours to design (Time to bring out that green thumb!) and that nopet policy is out the window (Check out HALPals.org to learn more about our pet adoption program!).

And the intangibles, while they don’t come in a paint can, do have a lasting impression.

Did you know that homeowners are 28% more likely to vote than renters?

Did you know homeowners are almost three times more likely to own a business than renters?

Did you know children of homeowners are 116% more likely to graduate from college?

And — here’s a big one — did you know that a homeowner’s net worth is 45.9 times that of a renter’s?

Homeownership is one of the biggest drivers of personal wealth, and the Home At Last program is doing its part to ensure more rural Nevadans have access to affordable homeownership.

Before we dig into HAL’s offerings, let’s define “rural” (because if you’re reading this in Las Vegas, you’re likely thinking, “Why do I care?”). In 2005, Nevada legislation clarified our jurisdiction and defined it as areas with populations under 150,000. Many people are surprised to learn that homes for sale in Enterprise, Mountain’s Edge, Southern Highlands, Whitney, Winchester and Summerlin South are eligible!

The Home At Last program offers customized down payment assistance options (up to $25,000!) for qualifying homebuyers. Program eligibility requirements are an income maximum of $135,000 and a FICO minimum of 640 — and you do not need to be a first-time homebuyer. Down payment assistance is provided in the form of a three-year second mortgage that is completely forgiven after living in the home as a primary residence for the first three years. There is no interest and there are no payments on the down payment assistance provided. A Home At Last approved lender (read on for details about how to connect with one) will pair the assistance with a 30-year first mortgage with a fixed interest rate. And, there are no separate applications to fill out, so it’s easy and doesn’t slow down closing!

Home At Last approved lenders pre-qualify homebuyers for the mortgage loan required to purchase the home. Loan types include FHA, VA, USDA Rural Development, and conventional loans. There are no purchase price limits when buying a home through the Home At Last program, although the loan type may impose a limit. Of course, all loans must meet applicable loan guidelines, but a Home At Last approved lender will explain those details.

Let’s quickly talk about rates: as of this writing, for example, Home At Last offers a 2.625% interest rate with 2% assistance on an FHA loan, and — hold onto your hats — a 2.250% with 0% assistance (among nine other rates, loan types and assistance amounts). That’s right: even if a buyer doesn’t need down payment assistance, they can access that crazy-low rate. Access to affordable credit is the name of our game. Home At Last down payment assistance is the real deal!

Because we’re always trying to find ways to help make homeownership achievable, we’re always innovating. The Mortgage Credit Certificate program (or MCC) helps ensure homeownership remains affordable by providing qualified first-time buyers and qualified veterans with an annual federal income tax credit equal to 30% of the mortgage interest paid — every year for the life of the loan. While a tax credit may not sound like the sexiest thing in the world, the savings sure does. Let’s do some math.

With an MCC, a 30-year loan with a 3.250% interest rate would produce nearly $40,000 in tax savings over the life of the loan. Let’s say that again: Forty. Thousand. Dollars.

The MCC can be paired with Home At Last down payment assistance or used on its own — however, the MCC can only be initiated at the time of purchase, so if you’re interested in seeing if you qualify, be sure to ask your lender at the very start.

MCC. DPA. FHA. DTI. AOK? It’s a bit of an alphabet soup, isn’t it? That’s why we offer homebuyer education. Not only is education a requirement of our program, it’s an awesome way we help our homebuyers be as informed as possible as they venture into one of the biggest, if not the biggest, purchase of their lives.

Home At Last University (HAL U for short) is where our Nevada rural homebuying education happens. It’s online, it’s free and it’s kinda fun (if we do say so ourselves). Homebuyer 101 will give you the deets on our program and insights into the entire homebuying process. Do you know the 3 C’s of credit? How about the difference between an inspection and an appraisal? And what about all that stuff you need to know to be a responsible homeowner for many years to come? We’ve got you covered at HomeAtLastEducation.org.

At the end of your Homebuyer 101 course, you’ll receive two fabulous things: 1) your “diploma,” which is what you’ll need to provide to your lender; and 2) a direct link to our lender search tool. Just like the “Find My Store” tool in your favorite barista app, this tool uses your zip code to find HAL-approved lenders in your area (venti mocha chip frappa-something not included). What is included is a network filled with ah-mazing lending professionals who know our programs inside and out, and can help develop your custom map to affordable homeownership.

If you’re reading this as a loan officer or real estate professional, and you’re not already involved with Home At Last, shoot us a note at HAL@NVRural.org — let’s get you hooked up with HAL!

Is your brain full yet? Hungry for more?

Details about Nevada Rural Housing programs can be found at NVRural.org. It is our duty and honor to serve thousands of rural Nevadans, and satisfy that ache for home.

Coleman is Communications Director for the Nevada Rural Housing Authority.

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