By Eric Galatas, Public News Service
Homeownership remains out of reach for many hard-working Nebraska families because of stagnant wages and lack of access to traditional mortgages.
Kim Preston, rural enterprise assistance project director at the Center for Rural Affairs, said their new loan program aims to provide minority communities and low- and middle-income families an alternative path to buying or repairing a house.
She pointed out a lot of people say they want to relocate to small communities, to raise a family or to bring their families back to the place where they grew up.
"A lot of times, the barrier is homeownership," Preston explained. "The housing supply isn't there, the housing supply might need some rehab or some tender loving care. Or the banks aren't able to assist with that small dollar product, and that's the niche we aim to fill."
In Nebraska, the homeownership rate for Latino residents is 42%, compared with 70% for non-Latino white residents.
The program offers loans of $5,000 to $100,000 dollars toward the purchase of a home, or to help homeowners with renovation or emergency property repairs.
Preston stressed rural areas tend to have fewer quality housing options available than urban communities. Small towns have lower home vacancy rates, aging housing stock, and not enough new home construction. She added adequate and affordable housing is a quality-of-life issue, and homeownership helps support local schools.
"And it also plays an important role in the economic development of that community," Preston contended. "If a community doesn't have local housing, then it can really undercut successful business startup as well as business growth strategies."
Preston emphasized the larger goal, as a community-based lender, is to create an economy that works for everyone who calls rural America home.
Applicants will not be required to provide a down payment, but Preston noted people who can put money down could be eligible for discounted interest rates.