Councilman bringing in experts to advise first-time homebuyers
by Nikki Wiley
April 19, 2014 04:00 AM | 1933 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Nervous first-time homebuyers uncertain about how to obtain a mortgage have a chance to hear from industry experts at a forum hosted by Councilman Anthony Coleman, though he says there likely aren’t enough affordable homes in the city for those new buyers.

Coleman will host the homeownership workshop at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 205 Lawrence St. No registration is required.

The event is typically well attended, he said, with between 150 and 200 residents participating last year.

“The people that come out are really working to save money,” Coleman said.

Staff of the city’s community development department and Marietta Housing Authority will be on hand to make presentations and answer questions, along with a lender and Realtor.

Scott Campbell, director of homeownership for the authority, says attendees will hear about a down payment assistance program that can help soften some anxiety for first-time buyers.

Eligible residents can receive up to $10,000 for down payment assistance through the Housing Authority.

“We provide that money up front and as long as the house remains the individual’s primary residence, they don’t transfer the deed or make it a rental property,” Campbell said. “If they sell the property that money has to be paid back.”

‘American dream’ may not be found in Marietta for everyone

But those working homeowners who are closely watching their pennies and safeguarding their bank accounts in hopes of making a down payment on their dream home may not find a place to call home in Marietta.

High-priced homes are popping up across the city, including the homes recently constructed at Montgomery Park, formerly Lyman Homes, where price tags reach to $350,000 for the four-bedroom homes. Houses starting in the $400,000s at Meeting Park, formerly Clay Homes, will also go up for sale next month.

Both of those sites were once public housing projects that were razed.

Coleman wants to see similar sites, like the former Boston Homes and Fort Hill complexes, become affordable, owner-occupied homes to help families realize “the American dream.”

“I think Marietta needs more affordable housing for working individuals,” Coleman said.

The majority of city employees live outside of the city limits of Marietta, Coleman said, because they cannot afford to purchase a home in the city. That also drives away young families, he said, who are making modest entry-level incomes.

“If we’re going to have a vibrant city we’ve got to have young people,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to have a balance.”

Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly has also been an outspoken advocate for increasing the city’s housing stock of affordable homes.

“There’s a gap in just housing probably for which you would classify as professional working families with higher incomes and then those folks that are more blue collars who are hard workers,” Kelly said.

And those blue-collar professionals, nurses, teachers, firefighters and other working residents aren’t buying homes in Marietta.

“If their dream is to own a home, they can do it but not in Marietta city,” Kelly said.

She doesn’t have a solution to the problem but hopes the city will have opportunities in the future to incentivize private developers to build quality homes in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.

Saturating the market

Mitch Bland, director of community development for Marietta, says some young families are beginning to buy bungalow-style homes that had turned into rentals.

While the city has made progress with infill development of affordable homes, Marietta still has many homes on the market that carry a price tag of more than $300,000.

“It is funny those who say that’s affordable housing. I don’t know who that’s affordable for but it sure as heck ain’t affordable for the majority of us,” Bland said with a laugh.

He said he understands that developers must make a profit to stay in business, but he says it’s also important to consider what can be sustainable. Businesses won’t move to Marietta, Bland said, if their middle class workers can’t find housing.

“At some point, you’re going to over saturate the market at above $300,000 homes,” Bland said.

Some worry that affordable homes are more vulnerable to foreclosure, but Bland says that’s not true. None of the homes built by Cobb Housing Inc., a nonprofit development group dissolved four years ago, Bland said, were hit as hard by the Great Recession as the half-million dollar homes sprinkled throughout the city.

“All of those homes which were sold to people of modest means, not one was foreclosed on,” Bland said.

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