Reminder Assistant Editor
SPRINGFIELD The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently gave a large gift to HAP Inc. to assist first time home buyers with purchasing a home they love and keeping it.
Taylor Caswell, HUD regional director and Tom Bledsoe, president of the Housing Partnership Network, presented HAP Inc.'s executive director, Peter Gagliardi, with a check for $2,139,125 to fund education for area residents looking to purchase their first home.
"This is my second time at HAP, and it's always a happy occasion," Caswell said. He added that HUD and HAP both focus on home ownership and helping people keep their homes.
Over the past year, HAP Inc. has seen an increase in the number of new home owners who have difficulty paying their mortgages due to rate adjustments and financial crises.
"A large number of people will see resets in their mortgage interest rates, especially in the next couple of months," Caswell said. "It's a very serious situation dealing with very complicated terms."
With assistance from HAP, HUD and the Federal Housing Administration, new home owners may be helped out of adjustable rate mortgages and into fixed rate mortgages.
"There is a crisis facing communities," Bledsoe said. "We've seen a huge spike of families in danger of losing their homes because of mortgage issues. These people have one-on-one support at HAP."
Pre-purchase and post-purchase education for new home owners will be the main focus of the donation from HUD.
Some of the pre-purchase education was extolled by a former student of the classes, Valerie Thompson of Easthampton, a former resident of both Springfield and West Springfield.
"It was a lot to learn," she said. "I didn't know where to start.
"This was my first time looking for a house," she explained. "I was getting tired of renting and I wanted something for myself. I investigated a program here [at HAP] and took the classes." She said different vendors came in and discussed the different steps she would need to take to buy her first home, including a banker, an inspector and a lawyer.
Thompson added, "And thank God I didn't get into an adjustable rate mortgage!"
The program, called the First Time Home Buyer's Education course, takes place over five or six different classes and costs only $10.
"The money from HUD will help us keep the cost that low," Carol Walker, director of Communications at HAP, said.
"I would recommend others do the program," Thompson said. "I would have had to wait five years before getting a home without its help."
She explained that a person starts the process of home buying by taking the classes and HAP representatives "will work with you to get you through."
When asked how she would go about buying another home in the future if she chose to do so, Thompson replied, "I would do things a little differently" and she added she's grateful for all the things she's already learned.
"This is someone who took the course and knows a good loan from a bad loan," Gagliardi said. "This is a lesson we want someone thinking about buying a home to learn."
He added that he encourages people to come to HAP before even thinking of purchasing a home.
The post-purchase education that will also benefit from the $2.1 million are classes that cover topics such as home repair, maintenance and safety.
The money given to HAP is part of $44 million worth of grants awarded nationwide. All the grants were given to organizations that provide housing counseling services to help home buyers realistically evaluate their readiness for a home purchase, understand their financing and down payment options and navigate what can be an extremely confusing and difficult process, according to HUD.