The Dane County Housing Authority has chosen to end a program that helps low-income residents buy their own home because of a shortage of funding and a decrease of people in the area seeking home ownership.
Judith Wilcox, the chair of the Dane County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, said the Home Ownership Program was started in 2000, at the height of the housing boom when many people were buying a home.
The program provided down payment assistance to first-time home buyers who fit within certain income categories, she said.
According to Wilcox, federal funding and Community Development Block Grant backed the program. However, Wilcox said the program’s budget has been steadily reduced since the housing market bubble.
She said funding for the program peaked at around $300,000 a year, but even that was not enough funding for the program’s administration to support the program at the level it needed to be supported.
“[The Home Ownership Program] did a phenomenal job training first-time home buyers,” Wilcox said. “They developed a unique training program that trained big groups of people who came in to be a homeowner.”
She said the classes were also taught in Hmong and Spanish to reach out to a greater amount of the Dane County community.
According to Wilcox, the program helped prospective homeowners learn what they needed to do to own their own home, including how to put together a down payment and improve credit ratings, and served as an integral part to the program.
However, the training portion of the program was shut down a few years ago due to insufficient funding, Wilcox said, adding the lack of resources has limited the program’s reach.
Last year the program was only able to help a few people, Wilcox said.
Wilcox said they are working on moving in a new direction, to help the increasing amount of renters in Dane County.
As the vacancy rate in Dane County is less than 3 percent, and less than 2 percent in Madison, Wilcox said it is difficult for renters to find housing, especially for long-term leasers. She added there is also a shortage of low-income housing in Dane County, due to the decreased funds.
“It it a fact of life – there is just not enough federal money, local money or state money to help us provide the type of housing that needs to be provided,” Wilcox said.
She said foreclosures have been making homeowners into renters which creates more competition in the rental market.
Dane County Board Sup. Leland Pan, District 5, said the closure of the Home Ownership Program points to the growing lack of commitment by state and federal government agencies to fully fund low income housing programs.
“Combined with decreasing funds to local government, resources get increasingly tight while we fight a growing poverty issue in Dane County,” Pan said. “Unless local governments and state and federal programs see increase in funding to these human services, we will continue to see a growth in homelessness.”