HUD program helps educators, public servants purchase homes



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Posted on March 16, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 16 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Tiffany Carpenter has big plans for her new home.

"We get to take a house, fix it up however we want," she said. 

It's a $121,000 home that the Westwood High School teacher wouldn't be able to afford, but thanks to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Good Neighbor Next Door program, she's buying it for just $60,500.

"These are homes that were bought with FHA loans, and the folks that bought them for whatever reason couldn't hang on to them, and HUD eventually foreclosed on the property," explained Great Texas Homes Realtor Jim Daniels.

Rather than put the house back on the general market, HUD is offering special grants to law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, and educators to buy the homes at half price as long as they agree to live there for at least three years.

The idea is to engage professionals in the communities around them, especially those labeled as "undesirable" so they will become leaders in those areas.

"This one to me is not undesirable. It's a half-a-mile from my school. I could walk there if I wanted. My aunt lives in this neighborhood. I really enjoy the neighborhood," Carpenter said. 

Only about four or five of the homes are available per year in the Austin area. So if you meet the requirements, you have to enter a lottery system in order to qualify to purchase the home.

"So the names go in a computer. They're randomly drawn out, and a winner is chosen," Daniels added.

However not everyone is happy with the way HUD is spending their tax dollars.

"The cost is spread out obviously over all the tax payers in the country," Daniels said. 

Gary Smeltzer is one of those tax payers. He's lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. While he doesn't mind how the money is spent, he is worried about his investment.

"We're afraid it's going to decrease the value of our property," said Smeltzer.

Realtors say that's not the case and having good neighbors move in is ideal. Neighbors like Carpenter, who will start calling a house in Anderson Mill home next month.