The city will remain eligible for the Rural Development Program, Tammy Ellis recently told a crowd of Franklin County residents gathered at the First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa.
“[The Rural Development Program] is the only 100-percent financing we have available to us here other than a veterans affairs loan,” Ellis, associate broker at Century 21 Lantis and Associates, 2141 S. Princeton St., Ottawa, said. “Because of the economic status of a lot of consumers here in Ottawa, we have a lot of blue collar workers who can make the house payments, but who don’t have extra cash for a down payment. That makes it difficult to be able to buy a house.”
The program offers a zero down option, which is appealing to first-time home buyers, Sharon Bollin, vice president and mortgage lending manager at Arvest Bank, said
“This is especially great for first-time home buyers because it allows them more flexibility to purchase their first home,” Bollin said. “With the zero down option, it gives them a better chance of getting into a home because those starting out that might have a lower income and not a lot saved up because they’re just getting started — it’s a great program to help them get into their first home.”
The program has an income restriction, Bollin said, with the number of people potentially living in a house and the residents’ income affecting eligibility.
“A one- to four-person household can have a total household income of $74,750,” Bollin said. “For a five- to eight-person household, it’s $98,650, and that’s as far as it goes.”
The annual household income is based on any income that’s brought into the house, Bollin said. That income can be from child support received from an ex-spouse, or any money a parent or grandparent living in the house might have from Social Security or disability checks, she added.
Ottawa was set to lose its eligibility for the Rural Development Program Oct. 1, Ellis said.
“We’ve been panicked for about nine to 12 months thinking we were going to lose the program,” she said. “We should’ve lost [the program] in March and we didn’t and we were going to lose it here at the end of September.”
The reason for Ottawa remaining eligible for the program is because of lobbying by three Realtor organizations, Ellis said. Without their help, she said, she was positive Ottawa would lose the program.
“The Kansas Association of Realtors have a lobbyist as well as the National Association of Realtors who have lots of lobbyists,” she said. “And we are a member of the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors who lobbied on our behalf because we’re part of their organization.”
Ottawa will remain eligible for the program through the end of 2014, Ellis said. There might come a time where the city is up for ineligibility consideration again, but that depends on the Metropolitan Statistical Area, she said.
“The Metropolitan Statistical Area is a geographical region with a relatively high population density at its core,” she said. “[Congress] was trying to say we were apart of the Kansas City Metropolitan Statistical Area because of our close economic ties [with the Kansas City metropolitan area], however we’re still considerably far away.”
The neighboring city of Gardner, to the north of Ottawa, wasn’t as fortunate, Ellis said. Gardner, along with the cities of Andover, Hays, Junction City, Liberal and Pittsburg are losing their eligibility for the Rural Development Program, she said.
Ellis has been warning about the dangers of ineligibility at First Friday Forums for the past year, she said, trying to stress the importance of this program for the community.
“It would be hugely detrimental if we lost that program,” she said. “We do a huge number of rural development loans because that’s how people can afford to buy.”