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Nonprofit helps with homeownership

June 6, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

HomeOwnership Center Inc. is a nonprofit organization that helps many households each year with the prospects of owning or repairing homes.

"We average seeing about 200 to 250 families for counseling and education, and we work with about 40 to 50 families a year that are actually able to move on to purchasing a home," said John Elza, executive director.

Originally a program of the Randolph County Housing Authority, HomeOwnership Center was chartered as a nonprofit homeownership center in 1998.

"We spun off of the Randolph County Housing Authority. That was done in part because the Housing Authority is a public entity and has limitations as a public entity. So as private nonprofit, we can do some things that the Housing Authority can't do," Elza said.

According to the organization's website,, the services of HomeOwnership Center include assisting with the training, counseling and financing of low- to moderate-income families and first-time home buyers and also provides continuing support for existing homeowners.

"We can serve anybody. Any income level, any family size, but certain mortgage products may have income guidelines," Elza said.

The center has access to affordable loan options that support a variety of assistance to qualified borrowers, such as for home repairs, home improvements, accessibility improvements, energy-efficiency upgrades and acquisitions with rehabilitation of foreclosed properties, according to a fact sheet on home repair funds provided by HomeOwnership Center.

"It's a little tougher to get folks into programs. The lenders are looking closer at those credit histories and whether the folks can come to the table with any funds of their own," Elza said.

One of the greatest concerns that people have when they come in is about their credit score, he added. Downpayment requirements also have increased slightly.

"A lot of things have changed since the big housing bubble and mortgage meltdown of the last couple of years," he said. "The housing industry is still trying to climb back."

Counseling with HomeOwnership Center helps to answer questions that interested homebuyers have and also helps them to come up with a plan before they buy their new home.

"We try not to discourage anybody that wants to try to apply to get home financing," Elza said.

Also, low- to moderate-income households may qualify for lower interest rates and downpayment assistance.

"Our association with NeighborWorks America has brought an a lot of resources to the counties we serve," he said.

HomeOwnership Center became a chartered member of NeighborWorks America, a national entity funded directly through Congress, in 2001, and became a NeighborWorks homeownership center in 2002. It has also been been licensed with the Division of Banking since 2001.

"The good partnership between us and NeighborWorks provides a conduit for federal funding that we can bring into the communities we serve," Elza said.

In addition, the organization also is a Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling agency and a licensed nonprofit mortgage broker.

"We're now a broker through Chase Bank for Rural Development Guaranteed loans," Elza said.

He said HomeOwnership Center is trying to extend its opportunities. Rural Development Guaranteed loans differ from Rural Development Direct loans because they go through an intermediary bank. Both the Rural Development Direct and Rural Development Guaranteed loans assist low- to moderate-income families with low downpayment requirements and affordable mortgage products that might not otherwise be available through other sources.

Those type of programs assist families with low downpayment requirements and affordable mortgage products that might not otherwise be available through other sources.

"We're not a bank, we're not an investment entity, we're simply a mortgage provider," he said.

The center will counsel households through the entire process of purchasing a home. HomeOwnership Center is located at 1404 N. Randolph Ave., Elkins, and can be reached at 304-636-6495.



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