Program to assist low-, moderate-income families with home buying

NeighborhoodLIFT, a national program offering homebuyer education and down payment grants for low- to moderate-income families and individuals, has arrived in Kansas City to help eligible residents achieve the American dream of owning a home.

The program, a partnership between NeighborWorks America, Wells Fargo and Co., and the Westside Housing Organization, will assist an estimated 300 families in the metro area by offering a $15,000 down payment grant as well as sessions on homeowner responsibilities. Civic leaders and representatives from NeighborWorks America, Wells Fargo, the Westside Housing Organization announced the collaboration at a July 9, press conference. Eligible applicants must live in Clay, Cass, or Jackson counties in Missouri.

U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), in opening remarks, recalled his own childhood and the pride felt by his family members when they finally were able to buy a home.

“I spent the first six years of my life living in a shack without an indoor toilet or without heat or any kind of electricity at all,” Cleaver told those in attendance. “We moved into public housing and lived there for five years. My father worked three jobs in order to buy a house in a white neighborhood, and my father is still in that house as of this press conference today. I know what home ownership does to the psyche of the people who own a piece of earth they call theirs. I am thrilled that Wells Fargo has stepped up to the plate with this program.”

According to a press release from Wells Fargo, eligible families and individuals must have an annual income not to exceed 80 percent of the area median income of $80,000, which is about $64,000 for a family of four in Kansas City. The program offers a $15,000 down payment grant for those who meet that requirement in addition to others.

Special parameters exist for applicants who are active military personnel, veterans, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians, and teachers. They may earn 100 percent of the $80,000 area median income and remain eligible; successful applicants will receive a $17,500 grant instead of the standard $15,000.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James praised the partnership, saying it will “make a difference in helping families achieve that home ownership dream and improve their financial situation,” adding that children especially will benefit.

“This is a win-win for the people of the city, for the public and private sectors, and for kids,” James said. “When kids have a stable home environment, they will do better on every level.”

That community improvement is a big part of the goal in offering aid to the estimated 300 families, said Kirk Kellner, Wells Fargo region bank president for Missouri, who introduced Cleaver in opening remarks.

John Santner, regional vice president of the Midwest Region for NeighborWorks America, expressed his excitement for NeighborhoodLIFT and the people it will assist.

“Home ownership has just become much more affordable for hard-working families,” Santner said, adding that homebuyer education will arm successful applicants with the knowledge they need for such a big, positive life change. “We know that a prepared home buyer is a successful homebuyer. That’s our goal.”

The program will be administered by Westside Housing, said Gloria Ortiz Fisher, the organization’s executive director.

“The tradition of home ownership has been what makes our neighborhood so vibrant and such a great place to live,” Ortiz Fisher said. I promise you that we will be with you the whole way to make it possible.”

Those interested in applying to be a part of the program can do so at a free event from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. July 27 and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. July 28 at the Kansas City Convention Center. To register for the event and for a list of documents needed to apply for the down payment grant, visit www.wellsfargo.com/lift. Also you can call Westside Housing Organizations 816-421-8048 for more information.