New County Grant Program Helps Seven Maui Families Get First Home
Seven Maui families moved into their own homes, purchased with help from a new County of Maui grant program that assists first-time home buyers with their down-payment and/or closing costs. Mayor Charmaine Tavares and County Council Vice-Chair Michael Molina met recently with the families at the home of Joy and Charles Au of Waihee, who enjoyed their first Christmas in their newly purchased home.
The First-Time Home Buyer’s Grant (FTHBG) program began taking applications on November 2, 2009. Administrators suspended the acceptance of applications about three weeks after the program launch when an overwhelming 300-plus applications were received.
The program provides maximum grant awards of $15,000, was initiated by County Council Vice-Chair Michael Molina in 2005 when housing prices were inflated. The legislation passed with support of the full County Council and is being administered by Evergreen Home Loans through the County of Maui Department of Housing and Human Concerns (DHHC), Housing Division.
County officials say a total of 8 families completed paperwork for the purchase of their homes, and there are still one or two transactions pending.
“I wanted to establish a program that would help middle-income families purchase their first home, said Vice-Chair Molina. “I am excited for these hard-working families who can now experience the dream of home ownership in Maui County. It’s very gratifying to hear their stories and see their pride of being new homeowners,” said Molina.
Charles Au and his wife Joy are teachers at Lokelani Intermediate School in Kihei; their son, Makahinu, is 15 months old. The Au’s and the other families gathered at their home thanked Mayor Tavares, Council Vice-Chair Molina, DHHC Deputy Director Jo-Ann Ridao and Housing
Administrator Wayde Oshiro.
“I grew up in a family of 11 children in rural Oahu, and we always rented,” Au said. He continued, “My whole life I thought I would never have the opportunity to own a home because of the cost. Thank you so much for taking away that obstacle.”
Manny Visitacion, who is raising three young daughters, said the program was a dream come true. “For the longest time I was trying to get a house for my kids, and I never dreamed I could do it,” he said. ‘But a couple friends encouraged me to try for the (FTHB) program, and with the help of the Mayor and the Council, I was able to achieve this dream,” said Visitacion.
“For these families it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’m glad was available to them,” said Tavares.
No re-payment of the grant will be required unless one of the grantee refinances the first mortgage loan and receives cash; the grantee no longer uses the property as the borrower’s principle residence; or the borrower sells the property within 15 years. If the grantee sells, moves, or refinances to receive cash within 15 years, the amount of $15,000 will be paid back to the County.
To qualify for the FTHBG Program, applicants were required to reside in the County of Maui at the time of application; be at least 18 years of age, be a first-time homebuyer and a United States citizen or resident alien; meet income and asset requirements; and not have a greater than 50 percent interest in fee-simple or leasehold land suitable for dwelling purposes.
The County set the maximum household income at 140 percent of HUD’s established median family income for residents of most areas of Maui, which is $105,560. The income requirements were adjusted for residents of Hana, $90,888; Lanai, $91,938; and Molokai, $70,238.
(Posted by Wendy Osher; Supporting information and photos courtesy County of Maui)