By GOV. JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- Last week, I went to the West Virginia Housing Development Fund board of directors meeting and asked them to come up with a plan that will keep our state from suffering the same housing slump that has plagued the national economy.

With one of the highest percentages of home ownership in the country, housing has been a significant part of West Virginia's growth the last few years.

The board responded by unanimously approving an economic stimulus package that not only should keep our affordable housing market on the right track, but I hope will put many deserving families in their own homes, and keep existing homeowners from losing theirs.

Due to low interest rates, the mortgage industry is under extreme pressure and banks aren't lending money for homes as freely as they were before. Tougher lending requirements are decreasing the number of eligible borrowers. And fewer borrowers mean fewer home sales, which can slow our state economy.

Although West Virginia hasn't suffered the same drop in housing values and foreclosures that we've seen in many areas across the country, we determined that we must take action now so that our state's growing economy doesn't slow down. We needed to give the housing industry a boost – an incentive plan – to encourage more West Virginians to buy homes through affordable mortgages, and to help those residents who've gotten into a bad situation with mortgages they can no longer afford.

The Housing Development Fund will be able to provide 30-year mortgages at interest rates as low as 4.99 percent. They also are increasing the Closing Cost Assistance Program to provide loans for as much as $5,000 to cover the larger cash contributions needed from families buying a home.

They will encourage use of 97 percent and 100 percent financing provided by federal loan guarantee programs and have set aside additional money for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for borrower assistance programs and for home buyer counseling for those in sub-prime mortgages.

This is not a bailout and it does not put the state in a bad financial situation. The loans will be guaranteed either by private mortgage insurers or through federal loan guarantee programs. It will help families get out of adjustable rates that they can't afford. For families who are in sub-prime loans that can't be refinanced, the Fund will work with counseling agencies to find ways to avoid foreclosure.

Loans through this program are available immediately. For more information or for assistance, residents may visit one of the Housing Development Fund's participating lenders, or call the Fund at 1-800-933-9843 or visit www.wvhdf.com.

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