July 19, 2013
Cherokee citizens will be able to buy a home more quickly and have more help with the down payment now that the Cherokee Nation increased from $15,000 to $25,000 its Mortgage Assistance Program dollars.
More than 1,700 Cherokee families have become new homeowners through the Cherokee Nation Commerce Department’s Mortgage Assistance Program since 2005. It has helped Cherokees close on nearly 200 homes per year. With the funding increase, the number of closings is estimated to reach 230 homes per year.
“Our goal is to make the lives of Cherokees better, and one essential way we can do that is to make home ownership more accessible to our people,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “I am proud we are able to offer our citizens the kind of assistance that will allow them to own their house and create safe, permanent homes for Cherokee families.”
Through the program, individuals receive $20,000 at closing, and $5,000 is set aside in a matched savings account which can be accessed after the family saves $1,000 of their own money.
The funds are designated for any major home repairs or equipment replacements needed within the first five years of living in the home. If after five years the family has not used the $5,000, the Cherokee Nation will use the money to make a principal payment against the mortgage of the home.
Allison Ross, 32, of Adair County, closed July 16 on a $73,000, three-bedroom home on five acres in Briggs after going through the program.
“It provides a chance for people who are lower to medium income to have a home of their own without taking all of their income to do it,” Ross, an environmental specialist, said. “This way people can have their own home and still be able to breathe a little.”
Edward Pitts, a self-employed single father of three from Sallisaw, is also closing on a home this month through the program.
“The increase from $15,000 to $25,000 helps take my monthly mortgage payments way down,” he said.
The Mortgage Assistance Program is funded with Native Amercian Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act grant money, which requires applicants to meet income guidelines and be a first-time home buyer.
“This is going to make a great impact on first-time home buyers,” said Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright, of Sallisaw. “It is going to help all of our people everywhere and get them in better homes. I’m just so happy for it.”
The increase kicked in July 9. Applicants who don’t qualify for the non-predatory mortgage loan will be placed in the self-sufficiency program. Participants take budget counseling, credit repair and debt reduction classes and it can lead to qualifying for the Mortgage Assistance Program.
For more information, contact the Cherokee Nation Commerce Department at 918-453-5536. To view NAHASDA income guidelines for MAP visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=2013-03incomelimitsfy13.pdf.