Popular first-time homebuyers program gets more funding

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 8:18 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - After a popular down payment assistance program in Bay County ran out of money, county officials moved some funds to help nearly 160 families on the waiting list.

ReHouse Bay’s First-Time Homebuyers Program ran out of money in August, about $9.5 million short for 159 families in the cue. On Tuesday, Bay County Commissioners voted to take money from another grant program to pay the difference.

The program provides anywhere from $75,000 to $50,000 for a down payment depending on how much money you make.

“After the storm (Hurricane Michael), it’s just very hard for some families to regroup and get a quality house and a quality home,” Bay County Commissioner Bill Dozier said. “This helps them go a long ways.”

Close to 100 families have already utilized it, totaling more than $5 million since January. County Commissioners came up with an interim solution at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We just relocated $9.5 million to continue to fill the system and be able to take in all the applications and try to cover all of these people who have applied to date,” Bay County Commissioner Doug Moore said.

The money is being transferred from the Housing Repair and Recovery Program that’s designed for Hurricane Michael repairs. County officials said funding is being taken out of that program because the demand for it isn’t overly high.

“The beauty of this program is, as these people live in the home after a certain number of years, if they sell or they upgrade or move up or whatever, portions of those funds used in the down-purchase assistance should be able to come back into this program,” Moore said.

Moore said it’s been rewarding to watch people live the dream of owning a home.

“It’s a humbling thing to watch and to know the decisions we’ve made have helped this many families,” Moore said. “From the application process, being able to submit, then getting their award letter. They get to go with their realtor.”

One Bay County resident recounted his positive experience with the program, too.

“Each and every one of you have been a blessing,” the resident said. “I don’t think without this program, we would’ve never been able to get a house.”

The $9.5 million being transferred is prioritized for the families on the waiting list who have already applied.

County leaders said they are pausing any new applications at this time.

Leaders say you can reach out to the county if you’re interested in applying to the program.

The odds of you being selected quickly are low at the moment.