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Carroll County Times
Carroll County News

Carroll commissioners approve $6.6 million bond allocation to help first-time homebuyers

A partnership between Carroll County and the State of Maryland is intended to make it easier for county residents to become first-time homeowners.

The Carroll Board of County Commissioners on Thursday unanimously voted to authorize $6.6 million in bond allocations to Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development’s mortgage program on behalf of the county.

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The state will administer the bonds designated for Carroll County and will offer loans to eligible applicants on a first come, first served basis. The loans are for people who typically have trouble obtaining a mortgage on their own.

The state is structuring the loans to make it easier for first-time homebuyers to pay the money back. Applicants must be 18 or older, have a valid Social Security number and be a citizen of the United States, according to the eligibility requirements.

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The annual program is growing.

“In 2019, we had 25 participants, receiving almost $6 million. In 2020, we had 49 participants receiving almost $12 million worth of funding assistance, and in 2021, we had 37 participants with just over $9 million awarded for their support of purchasing a home,” said Celene E. Steckel, the county’s director of the department of citizen services.

With the Maryland Mortgage Program, homebuyers are offered 30-year mortgages at lower fixed rates that they could not have accessed on their own, as well as lending assistance for down payments, according to Danielle Yates, chief of the county’s housing and community development.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, a Republican who represents District 4, asked why the private sector doesn’t provide this type of program.

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Yates said that the state works with more than 60 mortgage lenders in Carroll County.

“(The state has) a very robust program already intact, so it’s easier for us to let them administer the program, and then we of course just make the referrals and provide the information to Carroll County residents when they come and ask,” Yates said.

Homebuyers are required to take a mortgage class in order to obtain financing, Yates said.

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“Once they get that certificate they can immediately work with any lender and get that qualification, and be up and going in no time,” she said.

Though Commissioner’s President Ed Rothstein, a District 5 Republican, voted in favor of the housing bond allocation, he voiced concerns.

“We are subsidizing folks and using our taxpayer’s money and our community’s money to subsidize folks in buying homes,” he said. “... Should we be using money for this to subsidize 50 ... potential homeowners? That’s a lot of money that could be used for other services. So, although I think this is a very good idea and necessity to a healthy family and a healthier community, the risk associated with it, is that we’re subsidizing. At the end of the day that’s what it is. It is a subsidize approach, whether it comes from the state or the county or wherever.”

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Commissioner Dennis Frazier, a Republican in District 3, had a different opinion.

“I look at something like this as an investment into the community,” Frazier said. “You’re allowing people to become homeowners that couldn’t normally do that, because they don’t qualify, because of the amount of money they’re making or whatever the conditions are.

“Everyone knows if you own a house, you kind of put more into it, take care of it a little bit better, not that renters are bad people or anything, but it’s just another step up,” he said. “You’re looking at the long-term investment in the community, and I just think it’s a very good program to have for people who quite can’t make it.

“This will help them make that step to homeownership,” Frasier said. “I think that’s what we want to do.”


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