Covington offers home incentive buyer program

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

COVINGTON, OH (FOX19)  - Covington recently received five million dollars in stimulus funds and city leaders plan to spend a good chunk of that to rehab foreclosed and abandoned homes.

Crews are starting from scratch and adding the works. They're trying to entice a buyer to put down roots in Covington. In just three weeks, construction crews have gutted what was once a neighborhood nightmare and they're turning it into someone's dream home. It's part of two new government-funded programs, called the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Homebuyer Assistance Programs. The city received five million dollars from the government back in 2009, but could only start distributing the funds in January. Two million dollars of the money is set aside for rehabbing foreclosed or abandoned properties.

Jeremy Wallace helps run the program which operates out of the Covington Housing Authority. Wallace said each project will cost between $100,000 to $200,000. The city will spend that amount by first purchasing the home and then rehabbing them.  Wallace said crews will first gut the homes and then completely restore them, many times, even including upgrades such as Berber carpeting.

"Rehabbing historic homes in Covington is very expensive, but we're hoping to do at least 10 to 20 homes at first, and hopefully to get the money generated we'll do even more homes later on," Wallace said. "The beauty of it is that regardless of how much we put into it, we sell it for what it's worth for the homebuyer so the homebuyer is only going to pay what it appraises for in the end which is typically less than what we invested in it which is okay."

The city's partnering with non-profits like the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington.

"That value goes into the neighborhood really so the next person that buys has a comparable sale for the neighborhood," said Dan Petronio, Associate Director for the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington.

The Homebuyer Assistance Program allows applicants to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed and abandoned homes they find on their own, using an interest free loan. The city has set aside $400,000 for that program. Eligible borrowers can receive up to 50-percent of their lender-required down payment and up to 100-percent of the closing costs. The program is open to buyers from a range of income levels. Eligible borrowers should make no more than 120% of the average median income. That equates to an annual salary of $58,000 or less for a single person, or $83,000 for a family of four. Borrowers must also complete eight hours of home ownership counseling with a HUD approved agency, and have a credit score of at least 620.

The eligible homes are sprinkled throughout Covington. The property must be vacant and foreclosed to qualify, and it must be located within an eligible census tract neighborhood.

The loan amount will be capped at 50-percent of the purchase price.

"If they can afford $50,000, just as an example, but the house is $100,000," Wallace said. "We can help them with $50,000."

So far, seven people have qualified for the funds.

"We've never had a problem selling homes in Covington," said Wallace. "People want to buy here. You can get a lot here for your money which is what we want to push, but this is really going to do a lot to eliminate vacant and foreclosed homes in certain neighborhoods because that has proven to be a drain on the people who are already living there."

And neighbors couldn't be happier.

"I think it's a great idea," said Covington resident Rock Larsen. "It's exactly what Covington needs. Especially Robbins Street."

Buyers interested in the programs should call the Covington Housing Department at 859-292-2188.

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