GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Monday, March 29, 2010

First-time homebuyer -- and totally screwed

Housing in Los Angeles is a challenge, putting it mildly. I've been a renter the entire two decades I've been here, mainly because I've never been in a financial situation that made purchasing realistic. SWF, one average income and no savings when I first landed in LA makes it pretty hard to purchase a home with the housing bubble insanity. So I've been renting.

During the first four years I was here, it was renters' hell. I moved five different times, mainly due to exciting living conditions like: mold in the walls, cigarette smoke from the neighbor's unit venting into mine, jet exhaust leaving an exciting black sludge all over my home, freaky landlord from outer space, and other fun things.

Finally, I landed in the northeast San Fernando Valley and found a reasonable place. Hell-hot, dusty, but quiet. Twelve years later, I'm still a renter, but the hot, dusty house has become my home now and the neighborhood is my community. Folks like Joe B. and the Sunland-Tujunga crowd are my peeps. I could certainly do worse.

Suddenly, I am presented with an opportunity to purchase the home I've been renting in one way or another for more than a decade. Hurray! But I must hurry - the time frame to purchase is short.

I really hadn't been planning to purchase, so I don't have much saved and the opportunity caught me completely by surprise. But this is my home. So what to do?

My well-meaning friends say to me "Why don't you go to those first-time buyer seminars and get one of those great deals?"

Those great deals?  Yeah - okay. Good idea.  They're all over the news, those great deals.

So I went to The Seminar.

What has it gotten me?  Well, I've learned that a lot of really great programs are out there. Four in particular.

And I qualify for absolutely none of them.

My home is 1 1/2 blocks outside CD 7, so I don't qualify for the City of Los Angeles's East Valley Home Ownership Program. No one from outside CD 6 or 7 need apply to this program. That means I cannot apply for what is basically a free $75,000 no-interest loan for a down payment.

My home is 2 blocks outside of an area that qualifies for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program run by the City of Los Angeles. That means I cannot apply for what is basically another free $75,000 no-interest loan for a down payment.

I make 20% more than the low income purchase assistance program run by the City, and they've canceled the median income City program that I would have qualified for... That also means I cannot apply for what is a third $75,000 no-interest loan for a down payment.

My home is a quarter mile from the City-County boundary. No homes in Los Angeles City qualify for the kick-ass 0% interest, $10,000 down payment HERO program that the County and State are offering.

Maybe I'll still get the tax credit. The County offers a 15% tax credit, the City has a 15% program, too but it may already be out of funding.  The Feds extended their tax credit offer of $8,000, but this ends next month. So I'll likely miss out on that, too.

This leaves me scrambling for cash, trying not to ask anyone for any help 'cause it isn't really appropriate, and fighting to try to keep what has become my home, while a few blocks away, some of my neighbors are walking away with 0% loans, $75,000 down payments, and tax credits, plus far lower monthly payments than I am facing.

And I am left wondering just how is it exactly that my wonderful elected officials are really helping me.