Guy Ellis

News-Record

The City of Miami is adding two new homes to its housing initiative staged in the Key West subdivision.

According to Miami Community Development Director Larry Eller, one of the homes has a potential buyer. Eller said the cost of the homes is $128,500.

Creation of the subdivision is an attempt by the city to place families of qualifying income levels into affordable housing outside of the city’s flood zone.

“The most benefit in the program is for families falling under 80 percent of median income numbers,” Eller said.

Families of two who have an annual income of $28,150 or less and families of four who have an annual income of $35,200 or less are eligible to purchase homes in the subdivision Eller said.

The city helps the potential new home owners with various government-sponsored subsidy programs as well.

“We have a community development block grant that is $20,000 a house and that’s forgiven over a five year period, if they meet the income limits,” said Eller. “And we have a $5,000 grant for down payment and closing costs assistance from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka.”

The Oklahoma Finance Agency, through a program called HOME, may also be able to subsidize costs up to $14,999 for qualified applicants, according to Eller.

The city also helps families find financing for the purchase of the homes.

“We help them,” Eller said. “There’s a program called U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development that can provide permanent loans and they can go up to 33 years in term and the interest rate can be anywhere from one percent to market rate, depending upon their (applicants) income. It’s really critical if we can drive that interest rate down to 1 or 2 percent because that drives the monthly payments down to more affordable levels.

“But the program is pretty tough,” Eller added about the USDA loan. “You have to have good credit history and good work history. If people qualify for that program they may get a reduction in their interest rate for a period of time but if they sell the house later on then they have to pay that back to the government. So it’s not a handout.”

To avoid payback penalties on the USDA loan and the subsidy programs purchasers must live in the homes for five years Eller said.

Other subsidy opportunities exist for qualified applicants as well.

“We are working with the Cherokee Nation and for first-time home buyers who qualify and are members of a Native American tribe there’s another $15,000 subsidy possible,” Eller said.

The subdivision came about through the events of the July, 2007, flood and the city’s response to the catastrophe.

“We received a $400,000 grant from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce after the flood,” Eller said. “It was what is called an urgent need grant to help us rebuild the housing because what we don’t want to do is go back in the flood plain and re-build those houses and then the next time we have a flood we’re back where we were two years ago.”

The city used a portion of those funds to purchase the Key West land and to perform infrastructure improvements upon it.

The Key West sight, which already has three homes, has room for up to 20 units.

Although the city has a large hand in the development their role is somewhat limited according to Eller.

“The city isn’t really building them (houses). We’re a conduit for money in that we put these homes out for bids and local developers and builders do the work," Eller said "It benefits the economy because we have the contractor and the sub contractors building the houses and creating jobs in the community. But, we, the city don’t have the ability to build anything; we’re just a conduit for funds.”

TR Homes of Grove is the contractor on the two houses currently being built.

In Eller’s view, the city’s work in the subdivision does not constitute a competition with private enterprises.

“Really, there aren’t many houses being built in this price range,” he said. “I don’t feel we’re really competing against the private sector because we’re giving the private sector the opportunity to come in and build these homes. We’re creating opportunities, in my opinion, for the private sector.

“For the right families falling within the income limits this is a good thing,” Eller added.