(Source: By Paul Owers Sun Sentinel) Mario Sandoval can’t believe how good it feels to finally own a home.
The first-time buyer took advantage of a program through Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida, which received a $40,000 grant as part of a $22 million national initiative by Bank of America.
Miami-based Neighborhood Housing Services is using its money for home-buyer training and counseling. Buyers take an eight-hour course on home ownership that prepares them for the process. At a later date, they meet individually with counselors.
The free program makes buyers eligible for Broward County subsidies when it comes time to purchase a home, said Mia Batlle, chief development officer for Neighborhood Housing Services.
Sandoval, 49, was pre-qualified to buy a home for up to $75,000. By participating in the counseling and training programs, he received a $40,000 county subsidy that enabled him to buy a $113,000 home in West Park. He moved in Aug. 1.
The limousine driver had been renting a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Fort Lauderdale with his wife and two adult daughters. The rent was $1,000 a month, but now his mortgage payment is only $672 a month.
“I feel like a free man,” Sandoval said. “I have a new life.”
In the past two years, 4,200 people attended the home-buyer education course, with about half moving on to work with counselors, Batlle said.
“Some will say ‘I’m just not ready for this’ after they see the steps it takes to become a homeowner,” she said.
Budgeting problems, poor credit and lack of a down payment are the most common obstacles clients face in qualifying to buy, Batlle said.
The next training course in Broward County will take place Sept. 22. To register, call 954-564-4037, ext. 1126.
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation announced in July it was awarding the grants to nonprofit agencies that build and renovate affordable housing and offer foreclosure prevention services, counseling and other housing programs.
More than 650 nonprofits in 34 states have qualified for the aid, which is expected to benefit more than 31 million people.
“Our role is to ensure that the opportunity for home ownership continues to be seen as part of the American Dream,” said Germaine Smith-Baugh, president of the Urban League of Broward County.
©2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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