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12 23Sun04202014

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Back Opinion ben's Pen New year, new homeowners

New year, new homeowners

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BIBA Åñu Nuebu taotao Guåhan!

A new year brings new opportunities for the people of Guam and the Guam Legislature as it advances its commitment to crafting laws that support the general welfare and economy of our island. To this end, I introduced Bill 138-31, the First-time Homeowner Assistance Program and the Housing Trust Fund Act, which will greatly assist our people seeking to purchase a home of their own. During its final legislative session of calendar year 2011, the Guam Legislature unanimously passed Bill 138-31 and it now awaits the governor’s signature, which will enable our people to posses their own home.

The original First-time Homeowners Relief Program, which I authored in the 24th Guam Legislature, was repealed and re-enacted in order to update the provisions to account for the changes in the financing and market conditions of the real estate industry. The updated First-time Homeowner Assistance Program, coupled with the Housing Trust Fund Act, provides qualified first-time homeowners with financial assistance to purchase or construct a home. The amount of assistance is 4 percent of the eligible transaction cost of the home up to $250,000, which includes the cost of the land, down payments, and/or closing costs. This will provide up to $10,000 to qualified first-time homeowners and will greatly assist individuals and/or families that need extra financial assistance in achieving the goal of homeownership – especially with the rising cost of gas, power, water, groceries, etc.

The Guam Housing Corporation (GHC) is mandated to administer and fund the First-time Homeowner Assistance Program and should be accepting applications this year, once the governor signs the bill into law and the GHC creates and adopts its rules and regulations.

Bill 138-31 also establishes the first-ever Housing Trust Fund, setting up the mechanism to support the affordability and accessibility of housing for the people of Guam, and to finance support services that assist low-income households in obtaining and maintaining affordable housing. The First-time Homeowners Assistance Program is the first program funded through the Housing Trust Fund. GHC is authorized to develop and propose other housing assistance programs to the Guam Legislature for future action.

Lastly, Bill 138-31 also updates the Six-Percent Loan Program currently offered by the GHC. The current Six-Percent Loan Program limits the GHC to only providing first-time homeowners who are unable to obtain financing from conventional mortgage lending institutions with mortgage loans at 6 percent per annum for 30 years. With interest rates at historic low levels, the Six-Percent Loan Program falls short of providing first-time homeowners with loan rates comparable to other lending institutions. Bill 138-31 authorizes the GHC to provide loans at interest rates no lower than 4 percent per annum for either 15- or 30-year terms. This flexibility provided to GHC’s loan program expands the opportunities for individuals and families to afford homes in 2012.

Today, the government of Guam begins its first working day of the New Year. The Guam Legislature and its leadership will continue working to provide the necessary services and assistance to the people of Guam. With initiatives proposed, then developed into policy and enacted into law such as the First-time Homeowners Assistance Program and the Housing Trust Fund Act, we see positive steps in the right direction.

Individuals and families will realize the autonomy, independence and social stability that come with owning their first home on Guam.

I look forward to assisting the people of Guam with other opportunities that will result in a healthier and a more informed community.

Government officials should work to advance the public interest for our people, and not use the people to advance the personal interests of government officials.

 

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