By ALLISON DAVIS
While Top 40 tunes, a raffle and piping hot empanadas set a party atmosphere, educating homeowners was the mission at the 4th San Francisco Annual Homeowner’s Fair, Saturday, September 7th at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The fair, organized by the Mission Economic Development Agency, sought to educate first time and future homeowners.
“I think most people think they can never buy a house, but we want to promote that you can,” said Jane Duong, Homeownership Program Manager at the Mission Economic Development Agency.
With three workshops on homeownership, special assistance programs for home buyers and the current market, there was an enormous amount of information to take in. Each workshop was taught in English, Cantonese and Spanish.
“It’s amazing how much people don’t know,” said Rick Harper during the Current Market Conditions workshop. “You are getting all this information on one day, that will affect your housing possibilities forever.”
The city-wide event attracted a highly diverse crowd of young couples looking to buy their first homes, senior citizens seeking financial help and families looking for a way to move into larger homes.
Most attendants flocked to the workshops, with dozens of people sitting through all three sessions. However, with a total of 38 exhibitors including the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the San Francisco Housing Authority, there was something to attract everyone.
Emily Brooks, 27, and her three-year-old daughter, Charlie, were among attendants. Brooks, who currently rents in the Inner Richmond, came to the fair to receive counseling on home financing.
“Between trying to pay $1400 a month for preschool and the cost of living, I don’t know how I am supposed to afford it,” Brooks said. “I want to talk to someone about my concerns without judgment. I’m a single mom, I get that all the time.”
Brooks and others were surprised at the amount of housing and financial aid available.
“One of the main draws of the educational programs is finding where to go to get the money,” said Duong.
“There are about 300 new Below Market Rate units being built, Duong said, as a group clustered around her booth. “We need to educate about eight times as many people to get them sold.”
The Below Market Rate units, being built in various locations throughout the city, are obtained through an application process, then chosen by lottery. Applicants must be first time homeowners who live or work in San Francisco proper. They must earn between 80 and 120 percent of the median income, or $58,000-$89,500.
For those who obtain the units, the Mayor’s Office of Housing requires all first-time home buyers to undergo training or homeowners counseling at approved organizations like Asian, Inc. and the Mission Economic Development Agency.
More and more residents have been taking advantage of counseling at these organizations and of San Francisco’s financial assistance. Duong reported that the Mission Economic Development Association helped seven families purchase homes in the past year.
Duong cites a family who had been trying for over five years. They used financing programs such as the Down Payment Assistance Loan Program, which offers buyers up to $150,000 in interest-free loans—more than any other city in the nation.
Von Nguyen, a 31-year-old teacher and film editor, will buy her first home in Oakland in the near future. To do so, she is taking advantage of loans that favor first-time home buyers.
“It’s exciting…after paying rent for so long, I get to invest in myself,” said Ngyuyen.