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County Launches Loan Program

Program Benefits Range of Residents

While high prices of homes are driving teachers, police officers and hospital workers out of the county, the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA), in conjunction with the Department of Family Services, is doing its best to keep them here.

Over the summer, the VHDA launched the program across Northern Virginia. Last month, Loudoun jumped on board to help first-time buyers make a purchase from the pricey market. The new home-loan program for first-time homebuyers in the county called the FlexSPARC program.

Under the program, individual applicants who make a maximum of $108,000 and couple who make a maximum of $135,000 are eligible for below-market-rate loans.

Karen Thorson, a loan specialist for the Department of Family Services, said the program is designed to help people who make too much to qualify for the affordable dwelling unit program, but not enough to purchase a home in pricey Loudoun.

Applicants’ incomes must be between 30 percent and 70 percent of median income. According to the Department of Economic Development, the median household income in Loudoun is $98,483, twice the national median of $46,242.

"What some teachers make on average does not qualify them for the affordable dwelling unit program by dollars," Thorson said. "They’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place."

MICHELE WATSON, director of homeownership programs at the VHDA, said the FlexSPARC program is making a big difference in terms of who the department is able to help.

The state Housing Development Authority has run a SPARC (Sponsoring Partnerships and Revitalizing Communities) program for six years. The program provides below-market-rate loans for first-time homebuyers, but applicants must meet Housing Development Authority requirements.

Through FlexSPARC, the VHDA can help more first-time homebuyers who might not meet those same requirements for the SPARC program.

"You have a wife who is a teacher, a husband who is a police officer. Together they make slightly over 80 percent of median income, but they still need assistance," she said. "This is an opportunity for them to qualify for some help."

WHILE THERE IS no data available yet about the new program, Thorson said she has received a number of calls and e-mails about the program.

Last spring, the VHDA in conjunction with the Department of Family Services ran a pilot loan program for first-time homebuyers in the county under the same parameters.

Thorson said the were a high number of applicants for the pilot program and the department ran through allocation funds in less than one month.

"We were able to serve low-income to higher-income families," she said. "That did help a wide range of people."

The department awarded 10 families loans through the pilot program.

"We anticipate to help eight to 12 families," Thorson said.