Grants sought to assist first-time homebuyers

MALONE – The Franklin County Board of Legislators unanimously agreed Thursday to sponsor a state grant to help low-income families purchase homes in the county.

The non-profit Franklin County Community Housing Council Inc. applied for $535,000 in Community Service Block Grant funds to assist first-time homebuyers who fall within 30 to 80 percent of the county’s median income.

Eileen Gillen, executive director of the housing council, said a family of three’s income would have to fall between $15,350 and $40,950 a year, which would put it in the percentage range of the county’s median income for a family of that size.

“It’s a fairly big need for Franklin County,” Gillen said. “If you look at statistics, it is actually cheaper for low-income families to own a home rather than to rent. By the time they pay their rental payment, and then add in their utility costs on top of that, typically it runs higher than it does under home purchase.”

Home ownership also keeps people in the area and opens the door for renovating old or vacant properties. If the home to be purchased needs repairs, extra money is available to make that happen.

“The way these funds are structured, it’s a down payment and closing cost assistance,” Gillen said. “It also has a $5,000 rehab portion to it, so we’re upgrading our housing. A lot of times, people may have the money to get into the home, but they don’t have enough money to rehab it, too, so this grant is a combo.”

Eligible homes can’t be a trailer or a multi-family home.

Potential applicants have to secure their own mortgage financing. Gillen said applicants must take a free 10-hour homebuyer course to help guide them through that process. The courses are available at any one of the Franklin County Community Housing Council’s offices in Malone, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. The Tupper Lake site is staffed full-time.

If the grant comes through, Gillen said it could be used to help as many as 18 local families purchase homes.

County Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, applauded the grant.

“The question we had was, is there any cost to the county, and there isn’t,” Jones said. “This will result in 18 new rehabs for homes and it will cover the entire county.”

The Franklin County Community Housing Council began about 30 years ago. Besides securing grants to assist homeowners, it acts as a Section 8 HUD rental subsidy provider, provides services for the homeless, serves as the fiscal conduit for Salvation Army funds and runs about 18 low-income housing projects throughout the county.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or