Senator Flanagan Announces New Home Ownership Initiative

John J. Flanagan

September 13, 2007

To help assist home buyers, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) reminded future homeowners about a new home ownership initiative that is designed to help Long Islanders afford down payments. The new $25 million program was developed and funded jointly by the eight members of the Long Island Senate majority delegation, the Homeownership and Economic Stabilization for Long Island Program (HELP)provides down payment assistance and rehabilitation grants to eligible Long Island home buyers.

The program is designed specifically for Nassau and Suffolk County residents. Taking into account the high cost of buying a home on Long Island, the program created by Senator Flanagan and his colleagues is designed specifically for the region's cost factor.

"This program will open doors for those looking to achieve the American dream and was created specifically for Long Islanders to provide the assistance that our residents need," stated Senator Flanagan. "This program is designed to make home ownership a reality for many and will allow families to build their future here. We have some of the best and brightest young workers and this plan will help them stay here where they grew up."

Since most existing affordable housing programs limit participation to individuals and families with incomes 80%, or less, of the median, the Long Island housing market has made home ownership unattainable for some families.

To address this problem, individuals and families earning up to 130% of Long Island’s median income qualify for HELP. This includes singles earning up to $82,800 and families of four with annual incomes of $118,300. This important program will be administered by the Long Island Housing Partnership (LIHP) and was backed by representatives from the region’s business and labor communities at a recent announcement.

The HELP program will offer three key forms of assistance:

State Employer Downpayment Assistance Matching Grant
To encourage Long Island employers to create down payment assistance programs, HELP will provide a 3-to-1 match in funding for employers who create a recognized program. This down payment assistance will cap at a combined $40,000 in funding, with $30,000 from the state and $10,000 from the employer. In addition, the appraised value of the purchased home cannot exceed Long Island’s median home price, which is currently at $450,000, and homes containing rental units are not eligible.

Under this program, eligible housing would include new or pre-existing single-family residences located within Long Island, to be occupied as a principal residence, including Condominiums, Co-operatives or Manufactured homes.

To be eligible for state matching funds, employers with fewer than 50 employees must provide a minimum contribution of $3,000 per employee and the minimum for businesses with 50 employees or more is $5,000 per employee.

State Housing Rehabilitation Grants
To encourage community reinvestment and further reduce upfront purchase costs, HELP will also provide home buyers with up to $20,000 in additional funding for necessary repairs and the rehabilitation of existing homes.

Local Workforce Housing Incentive
To encourage smart-growth policies in local government, HELP provides down payment assistance in those municipalities that create "workforce" housing and revitalize downtown areas.
Under HELP’s Smart Growth Development for Workforce Housing incentive, any developer who works with a municipality to provide workforce housing in downtown areas and hamlet centers in accordance with "Smart Growth" principles can obtain a project set aside of up to $25,000 per home to be contributed towards the home buyer’s down payment.

This development can include mixed-use development to increase economic activity in downtown areas or hamlet centers; locations near transportation hubs to utilize existing infrastructure and create "walkable" neighborhoods; compact building design as an alternative to conventional, sprawling development; and inclusionary zoning to create a range of housing opportunities.
The sale price of each workforce unit cannot exceed three times the median income on Long Island for a family of four, which currently amounts to $273,000.

In the past, the Long Island Senate Delegation created the Affordable Homeownership Program to encourage the development of affordable housing, funded low-interest mortgages through the State of New York Mortgage Agency ("SONYMA") and successfully lobbied the federal government to raise both the income and purchase price limits for SONYMA mortgages in Nassau and Suffolk counties to the federal maximum (90% of the regional median).

"By creating a public-private partnership that benefits Long Island businesses and residents, we are protecting the very essence of our community. This will allow Long Island students and young families to live and work where they grew up and that is a good thing for all of us," added Senator Flanagan. "The key to the success of our region is expanding the interaction of government and business to keep our economy strong and to retain our young workforce."