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NeighborLift Program aims to boost home buying in Idaho

Wells Fargo is launching its first state-wide program to help homeowners in Idaho. It is investing $3.55 million to help boost homeownership. One group that is participating in the program is NeighborWorks Pocatello.

The program is called NeighborLIFT and aims to help low to moderate income families be able to afford to buy a home. Mark Dahlquist, executive director for NeighborWorks Pocatello, said usually Wells Fargo chooses larger areas to offer the program. He said usually places like Las Vegas or Los Angeles are the recipients. This is the first state-wide program it has offered. It’s also the first time it’s focused on smaller urban areas, like some Southeastern Idaho cities.

With the amount of money Wells Fargo is investing, Dahlquist said it will help 337 people across the state. Two people in Pocatello it is already helping are Clarissa and Kolton Jackman. The Jackmans are currently students with a young daughter and they rely on one income for the household. They weren’t even looking to buy a home until they heard about NeighborLIFT so they decided to look into it. The Jackmans said they found it was actually the perfect opportunity for them. Now they’re buying their first home.

“We’re just one income,” Kolton Jackman said. “I just do phlebotomy so we don’t make a bunch of money so it’s pretty helpful just because it would take us a long time to save up enough for a decent down payment for a house.”

Dahlquist said that’s why a lot of people aren’t buying homes. They can’t quite a proper down payment on a nice home or can’t meet all the necessary resources needed to buy a home.

That’s where NeighborLIFT comes into play. The program matches down payment assistance grants ranging from $2,500 to $7,500. The money starts out like a loan, but after three years, if all homeowner requirements are met, that loan is forgiven.

Dahlquist said a program like this for Southeastern Idaho is not only beneficial to families and homeowners, but to the real estate industry in general. Home buying in Idaho has dropped over the last ten years.

“Before the great recession, back in about 2005 or 2006, the home ownership rates in Idaho were in the low to mid 70s range, as a percentage,” Dahlquist said. “After the recession, they dropped down to somewhere in the 60s – the low to mid-60s.”

The goal of NeighborLIFT is to help low to moderate income families buy their homes and hopefully boost those numbers.

The Jackmans said the process of NeighborLIFT was actually pretty simple for them. They said they are grateful for the program that’s helping them get a home that otherwise would have been several years down the road. The couple is excited to own their first home.

“I feel like when you’re renting you’re just kind of throwing your money away, but that was really our only option up to this point,” Kotlon Jackman said.

“It’s just something that we can kind of grow into and it’s nice to have some stability with the baby and everything,” he added.

“I think it’s going to be a really nice stress relief because we won’t be moving around so much,” Clarissa Jackman said. “I think that’s kind of hard on kids and as we’re growing our family and trying to focus on school, that’s one thing we don’t have to worry about anymore.”

There are a few conditions applicants must meet. First, they have to be low to moderate income level for the area. They can’t be more than 80 percent above the area median income. For Bannock County, that level would be around $40,000 or so. For military and veterans, the income level is higher to allow for more flexibility in housing veterans.

The second condition for applicants is they must live in Idaho. Third, they must be living in the home they are buying. The house can’t be used as a rental property or any other use.

Fourth, the applicants must complete an eight-hour home buyers education course. The course teaches all the ins and outs and what people should know when buying and maintaining their own home. Dahlquist said statistics show that people who take homeowner education courses are one-third less likely to face foreclosure.

There is a launch event for the NeighborLIFT program on June 1 at Idaho State University. It will go from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pond Student Union building. People can stop by anytime between then. You can learn more about NeighborLIFT or even get a jump start on applying, if interested. Dahlquist said because the program is state-wide, anyone can come to the launch. They do not have to be from Bannock County.

More questions and information about NeighborLIFT can be directed to NeighborWorks Pocatello at 208-232-9468. You can also find some information here on its website.

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