Making affordable housing truly affordable - Tucson News Now

Making affordable housing truly affordable

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Two new programs in Tucson may make it easier for low income families to buy a home if they qualify.

First, the Pima County Community Land Trust unveiled a new, six-home, million dollar project at 1515 West Ontario in the Barrio Hollywood neighborhood. 

The homes are not for sale, but for rent. 

For those who qualify, they will get low cost rentals for up to two years. During that time they will get help with qualifying for a home whether it's saving for the down payment or cleaning up a bad credit score.

For Christina Hernandez, her son and two grandchildren, "Right now, it's basically credit score," she said. 

Credit issues have plagued her in the past few years even though she's worked full time, but now she wants to realize a dream of owning a home. 

She hopes to be one of those chosen to move in to take advantage of the Trust program.

"Because of the planning they're offering," she said. "That would help us a lot."

Three years ago, the plot was an empty lot that attracted the homeless and the trash they left behind.

"As well as drug use and crime," said Katherine Medberry, the president of the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association. "This will create a quality and safe environment for families who come in."

The homes were built to fit into the neighborhood style and size, generally about 1,300 square feet. 

"Our hope is the renters who come into these homes love our neighborhood as much as we love our neighborhood," she said. "And maybe their home purchase will be in our neighborhood."

That's the hope of another program set in place by the city of Tucson called Renovate the Residence, part of the Mayor's Help for Homebuyers program.

All too often, buyers find a home they want but because it's an older home it may need repair work such as a new roof or a new kitchen. 

Banks won't issue a mortgage until the work is done up front, oftentimes out of the reach of the buyer.

Under the program, the buyer is allowed to roll the cost of the improvements into the mortgage at a cost of about $5 for each thousand dollars of improvements.

That serves two purposes. First of all the buyer will qualify and secondly it puts someone in the home who is committed to the neighborhood rather than a house flipper or speculator. 

"It will allow people to say, when I see that older house, for a little extra though this program, I came make this into a nice home again," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. "That will maintain the character of the neighborhoods." 

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