Grants target foreclosure in Whittier

Low-income households eligible for help purchasing foreclosed homes

WHITTIER — A grant program that aims to reduce the number of vacant and boarded properties in the city will get a $1.5 million infusion in March, Mayor R.T. Rybak’s office announced Wednesday.

Grants to low-income homebuyers will be targeted to Whittier and 21 other neighborhoods most affected by the home foreclosure crisis. Recipients will get $10,000 dollars toward down payment and closing costs on a foreclosed property.

The new funding expands Minneapolis Advantage, a home-buying program piloted in 2008, when 50 grants were awarded. Of those first 50 grants, purchases on 49 properties have already closed, said city spokesman Jeremy Hanson.

Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines funded the grant program in partnership with Wells Fargo and the city. The city continues to seek out additional funding sources for Minneapolis Advantage, Hanson said.

Grant recipients also will get homebuyer and homeowner education through Minnesota Home Ownership Center, a nonprofit based in St. Paul.

The new funds were divided so that $1 million will be available for home purchases in 10 North neighborhoods and $500,000 will go to home purchases in 12 Northeast and South neighborhoods heavily impacted by foreclosure. Whittier is the only Southwest neighborhood involved in the program.

Households earning less than 80 percent of area median income are eligible for grants. They must be used for purchase of a foreclosed property. The property must be owner-occupied for a minimum of five years.

More information on applying for grants will be released prior to March, when the new grant money is made available.