Want to buy a home, but feel you can't come up with the down payment or afford the monthly house payment? Each year the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development invests millions of dollars in loans and grants that provide rural Florida residents with decent, safe and sanitary single or multi-family housing. USDA Rural Development has two no-down-payment programs to help individuals living in rural communities and areas obtain the dream of home ownership. One program even includes a subsidized interest rate for eligible applicants.

“Ensuring that Floridians living in rural communities and areas have decent, safe and affordable housing has been a top priority of USDA Rural Development for many years,” said Chuck Clemons, USDA Rural Development Florida State Director. “Providing rural housing opportunities is just another way the federal government, through USDA Rural Development, is enhancing the ability of rural communities to develop and to grow, ensuring the best possible quality of life for rural residents,” Clemons said.

Direct Loan Program

The Direct Loan Program is geared toward low to very low-income individuals. There is no down payment requirement and the closing costs may be included in the loan. The maximum loan amount for Jackson Bay, Leon, Jefferson, Gadsden, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Liberty Wakulla, and Washington counties is $216,840, with loan terms of 33 years and a current full-note interest rate of 3.0 percent. Under this program an applicant may be eligible for payment assistance, which would subsidize the interest portion of the house payment, lowering the overall monthly payment amount. Applicant's eligibility requirements include good credit history, adequate and dependable income and repayment ability for the loan.

Eligible homes must meet the following requirements:

• The home must be located in a community of 20,000 persons or less, or in a rural area. All parts of Washington, Jackson, Jefferson, Gadsden, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Liberty, and Wakulla counties are eligible areas. Portions of Bay and Leon counties are eligible areas.

• The home cannot have an in-ground swimming pool.

• The house must be structurally sound.

• Newly constructed houses must be built by an approved builder.

Guaranteed Loan Program

The Guaranteed Loan Program is for moderate-income individuals. This program is administered by a local lender, who will take the application, process it and determine the acceptability of the home to be financed. The applicant's income cannot exceed the county's income limit, which varies by county and family size. This program requires no down payment, no private mortgage insurance, and offers a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at bank interest rates for the purchase or construction of a home. Loan limits are based on an applicant's repayment ratios. Additional Guaranteed Loan Program information can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov/fl/guarrhs.htm

In addition, Rural Development has a program to assist qualified homeowners obtain financing for repairs to their homes. Listed below are some examples of what is called the 504 Loan and/or Grant Program.

The repairs for the loan program may be made to improve or modernize the home, to make it safer and more sanitary, or to remove health and safety hazards. Grants are only available for repairs that remove health or safety hazards and you must be a senior citizen. Loan funds may be used to improve or modernize dwellings regardless of the removal of health or safety hazards.

Examples of Loan/Grant type repairs include:

» Installation or repair of sanitary water and waste disposal systems

» Insulation

» Combination screen-storm windows and doors

» Repair or replacement of heating system

» Electrical wiring

» Repair or remodeling to make homes accessible to handicapped individuals

» Repair/replacement of the roof

Examples of Loan Funds include:

» Above listed improvements

» Painting

» Carpeting

» Improving clothes closets or shelving and cabinets

» Air conditioning

The use of grant funds is also limited to individuals 62 plus years of age whose monthly budget shows no ability to pay a debt. The 504 Loan Program does not have this restriction. Personal assets will be evaluated on an individual case. Jackson County annual income limits (very low) start at $19,150 for one person.

Interest rate for 504 loans is 1 percent with a maximum 20 year repayment. Loan amounts based upon applicants repayment ability, income, net worth, etc. Loans less than $7,500 require only a promissory note. Over this amount will require a real estate mortgage. Grant recipients are required to sign a grant agreement that covers repayment if they sell or the grantee’s heirs or estate sells before the three year period.

For more information about any of these programs please contact the Marianna USDA Rural Development office at 526-2610, ext 5, or visit them at 2741 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 5, in Marianna. The Marianna office serves prospective homeowners in Bay, Leon, Jefferson, Gadsden, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, Wakulla, and Washington counties. The USDA Rural Development staff will gladly meet with perspective homeowners locally in any of these counties. Additional eligibility information for rural housing programs is available at the local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting the USDA Rural Development eligibility website at http://eligibility.sc.egov.usda.gov.

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