Program helps first-time homeowners with down payments

An initiative is offering more than $1 million for down payment assistance to purchase a primary, owner-occupied residence in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas in the interest of strengthening and restoring neighborhoods.

The Wells Fargo NeighborhoodLIFT program is designed to provide sustainable homeownership initiatives in cities affected by the housing crisis.

“This is another opportunity that can help people realize their dream of owning a home,” said Kathi Thomas-Gibson, community outreach manager of the city of North Las Vegas. “It also reflects some renewed confidence in the housing market. People who thought they wouldn’t get the opportunity to become homeowners can use this tool.”

The program offers down payment assistance grants up to $15,000 for eligible new homebuyers who seek to purchase a home in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

People approved for home financing and whose household income is equal to or less than 120 percent of the area median income are eligible to apply for the program.

In Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, the income limit for a one-person household is $51,700; a two-person, $59,050; a three-person, $66,450; a four-person, $73,800, and up to $97,450 for an eight-person household, according to the Wells Fargo website.

Potential homebuyers must also attend a homebuyer education session. The sessions are available through Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada or a HUD-approved counseling agency.

Thomas-Gibson said there are approximately 200 people who have taken the eight-hour course and are waiting to become homeowners.

To receive the full grant amount, participants buying homes with a NeighborhoodLIFT program grant must commit to live in the home for five years and qualify for a first mortgage on the property.

“We have a lot of homes that are eyesores in neighborhoods,” said North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee. “This money can be used to purchase a home or make renovations with it. It is a great example of creating pride of ownership in the city.”

Funds may also be applied to FHA 203k renovation mortgage purchase loans, which allows people to borrow money for renovations and can be combined with the grant.

Valuation of the loan is based on future value after the renovations, according to Tony Timmons, assistant vice president for regional communications for Wells Fargo Bank in Nevada.

“North Las Vegas was hit as hard as Las Vegas during the housing crisis,” Timmons said. “Our goal is to help build these communities back up.”

The program is a collaboration among Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, NeighborWorks America, an independent nonprofit organization, and local nonprofit organizations, including Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada.

Nationwide, the program has helped create more than 5,000 new homeowners across 24 cities in the United States, Timmons said.

“This is another good example of organizations and private entities coming together to resolve housing challenges,” Thomas-Gibson said. “Everyone is really pulling together to address this complex issue.”

Since the program launched in May 2012, it has helped create approximately 300 new homeowners in Las Vegas by providing down payment assistance for qualified buyers, financial education to help buyers prepare for homeownership and events to showcase area homes for sale.

The program has funded 292 loans and has 74 grants of $15,000 left for Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, according to Timmons.

“We’re very interested in stabilizing our neighborhood and get homeowners into vacant homes,” Thomas-Gibson said. “The spinoff of having a family own a home in our community is that they will spend on our community and help our economy.”

For more information, visit or call Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada at 702-649-0998.

Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at or 702-383-4686.

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