Jackie Kuusinen, who grew up in Steamboat Springs, just moved into her first home in Riverside with the help of a USDA loan and downpayment assistance arranged through the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Photo by Tom Ross

Jackie Kuusinen, who grew up in Steamboat Springs, just moved into her first home in Riverside with the help of a USDA loan and downpayment assistance arranged through the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Federal loan program lands Steamboat woman in a house of her own

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An array of south facing windows collect natural light in Jackie Kuusinen's new home, her first. The 576-square-foot home lacks a garage, but the large gravel parking lot makes inviting friends over convenient and a large detached storage shed adds to the livability of the property.

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— Jackie Kuusinen, 27, never dreamed that she would be able to purchase a single-family home in her hometown. Then the Steamboat Springs real estate market turned, and she obtained a favorable U.S. Department of Agriculture no-down-payment loan.

Kuusinen just moved into a cottage-size home bordering a pond that attracts migrating birds in the Riverside subdivision.

“I feel so fortunate. It’s really amazing,” she said. “If you had told me a year or two ago that I could have afforded a house on land, I would have laughed.”

She closed April 22 on her 576-square-foot house on .26 acres. It has a surprisingly spacious bedroom, a storage loft where she keeps her climbing and camping gear, a small but nicely remodeled bathroom, and a kitchen full of new Energy Saver appliances that came with the house. The previous owner of the home, built in 1972, was Rick Erb. A large shed on the lot will someday contain the equipment Kuusinen will need to establish a vegetable garden.

Cindy Chadwick, an area technician with the USDA’s Rural Development Office in Craig, said that through September she has ample funds to help many qualifying homebuyers in the region. The direct loans made by the USDA cannot be applied to a house in Routt County selling for more than $274,800. However, the USDA also offers guaranteed loans through banks, for which there is no limit on the value of the home, Chadwick said.

Household income limits also apply to the direct loans. Like the loan amounts, maximum household incomes vary from county to county. In Routt County, a two-person household qualifying under the “very low income” limits could make no more than $32,250 annually.

Chadwick said she has helped to close six home purchases in Routt County since Oct. 1 and has two more ready to close.

You can go home again

Kuusinen is a Steamboat girl through and through. When she isn’t working as the reference associate librarian at the Bud Werner Memorial Library and pursuing a related master’s degree, she’s teaching rock climbing for Colorado Mountain College.

She received expert parental advice in her home search — her mother, Melrose, is a Realtor with Exceptional Prop­erties Real Estate, and her father, Bob, is the community president of Vectra Bank. However, she said her father and his bank were not involved in her home loan. Instead, she worked directly with Chadwick.

Jackie Kuusinen said her mother was urging her to look for property so she could take advantage of the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers before it expired at the end of April.

“My mom said, ‘We will never see this again in our lifetimes.’ Essentially, it’s free money,” she said.

“Everything in my price range was condos and townhomes,” Kuusinen said. “We weren’t looking at what my ideal was. I had one offer turned down. When this came up, I couldn’t believe it.”

Kuusinen locked in her mortgage at 4.875 percent interest. However, she qualified for a USDA subsidy that caps the interest portion of her monthly mortgage payments at 1 percent until her income goes up.

Her down payment assistance came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, instead of the USDA’s traditional funding for its direct loan program. Chadwick explained that the terms of ARRA don’t allow the down payment funds to be applied to homes that need repairs. Because Kuusinen’s home did not need repairs, Chadwick took the opportunity to tap the recovery funds.

In addition to getting a 100 percent, no-down-payment loan, Kuusinen was able to stack further down payment assistance from the Yampa Valley Housing Authority on top of that.

Chadwick ac­­knowledged that the terminology of extending down payment assistance to someone who already does not have to make a down payment is confusing. She explained that the USDA sees it as leveraging its money by working with local affordable housing organizations.

Kuusinen’s down payment help is not a gift, Chadwick pointed out. If she someday refinances her mortgage or sells the home, the funds will be returned at closing. The loan interest subsidy doesn’t have to be repaid if she does not show a net profit when she sells the property.

Kuusinen said she hopes her case will inspire other Routt County households to apply for USDA housing assistance. Her advice is that people prepare themselves emotionally to persevere.

“Absolutely, the hardest thing is that it takes a lot of work to get the paperwork together,” she said. “There is a preliminary application then another application. You have to get your bank statements and tax documents and pay stubs for four months. You think you’re done and then there’s one more thing. But Cindy was great about helping me.”

She attaches a good deal of significance to her success in buying a home as a young, single professional woman.

“Not to be sexist, but to buy a home and be single, and a female, and young and a ski bum turned librarian feels rare,” she said. “Within my lifetime, women didn’t have all the rights we have now.”

In the short term, however, one of Steamboat’s newest homeowners is more intent on finishing her master’s in library science and starting that vegetable garden.

“Just the potential of being in one place and developing that property is exciting to me,” she said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

exduffer 3 years, 11 months ago

Way too much wrong with this. I just don't know where to start.

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seeuski 3 years, 11 months ago

Freddie mac just asked Congress for another 10 $billion dollars. The POTUS is pushing through a financial takeover bill that does not mention Fannie/Freddie. When will we learn?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 11 months ago

Child of a bank president and Realtor qualifying for a government program for 0% down and subsidized interest rates. This is precisely why the Tea Party's message resonates. Government aid in a program that should never exist (didn't we learn anything about the consequences of financing at 100%?) for just about the last person that should need help buying their first home.

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Troutguy 3 years, 11 months ago

Do any of you own your home and take advantage of the interest tax credit on your mortgage? You took the loan out, why do you get a tax break on the interest? Have kids and taken advantage of the child tax credit? Your choice to have kids. Why should taxpayers subsidize them. Lost some money in the stock market the last couple years and were able to write down some of your losses? You're choice to gamble in the market. Why should taxpayers subsidize losses? Just a few examples of 'govt. aid programs' that nobody seems to have a problem with. I have no skin in this game, but get tired of selective complaining against certain 'govt aid programs', and not others. We should get rid of all of them, not just the ones you don't like.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 11 months ago

Maybe all those others programs should go away, but they also serve good general purpose functions. When profits are taxed then unless losses can be deducted from taxes then you'd be penalizing risk takers and business investment. The other programs you cite are available to everyone and have long been part of the economic policy of the US.

This housing program stands apart. First, we know that 100% financing is a bad economic policy. Second, this program would be completely unaffordable if everyone took advantage of it. Bad economic policy that is unaffordable is exactly what needs to be cut first. First rule of getting out of a hole of a deep recession triggered by a collapsed housing bubble should be: Stop Digging!

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sledneck 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, Get rid of 'em all! Ag subsidies, housing subsidies, all of it is wrong and is abused way too much.

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JLM 3 years, 11 months ago

The most fundamental question to ask here is --- why is the United States Department of AGRICULTURE in the real estate lending business?

It would be more than fair to say that the government does not have a stellar record of real estate involvement given recent experiences with GSEs such as Fannie and Freddie.

Not to be too personal but housing assistance --- affordable housing --- hardly seems to have as an appropriate target market the college educated --- working on her master's no less --- daughter of a real estate agent and a bank president.

USDA, ARRA, YVHA

No cash down payment, $8,000 downpayment assistance, interest rate assistance --- this is a feeding frenzy at the public trough

These are all programs that this family could have stepped up and handled themselves. Instead, my family was asked to assist. Let's get our dignity back and get off the public teat. At some point in time, a family has to take care of their own. This was that time.

When the children of bank presidents are the target market for government assistance, we have gone too far.

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carlyle 3 years, 11 months ago

The story is even worse. http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/HSF_SFH.html is the link to the USDA website on lending policy. I didn't realize that Steamboat Springs is a rural area. FNMA, FHLMC, FHA and USDA. Pretty soon DC will have 100% of the market, not too far away from the ~96% they currently handle.

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exduffer 3 years, 11 months ago

Why did the housing authority give her down payment assistance when her loan was a 100 percent, no-down-payment loan?

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John Fielding 3 years, 11 months ago

I think it inappropriate to make an issue of the young woman's family. There are many legitimate reasons for not using the parents money for the child's expenses when they are grown and moved on.

An appropriate focus is the individuals employment and earnings.

As for the programs themselves, some form of assistance for very low income earners to move ahead into home ownership is in the best interest of the general welfare of the nation. There are certainly many programs that help businesses and nonprofit organizations. The amount of assistance and the criteria for qualifying are the concern.

.

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seeuski 3 years, 11 months ago

Fannie Mae today asked for an additional 8.8 $billion dollars because of huge 1Q losses. The spread the wealth programs continue but of course the Dems will blame the greed of Capitalism and Wall Street for all the economic ills of the day. Socialism is failing right before our very eyes in Europe and WE are personally, each of us, bailing out Greece and the rest of Europe. Socialism is a failure and yet many of you want to jump off that cliff. Troutguy, Do you support the flat tax that has been proposed by many? That would put an end to tax deductions for the so called "despised rich".

"The European Central bank will buy government and private debt to keep debt markets working and lower borrowing costs, a crisis measure dubbed the "nuclear option," while the U.S. Federal Reserve joined with other central banks in the effort, reactivating a currency swap program used during the earlier stages of the financial crisis to ship dollars overseas to be pumped into banking systems as short-term credit." Isn't it great? We are on the hook for the Socialist schemes of foreign countries. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100510/D9FJTOQO0.html

"Fannie Mae seeks $8.4B in aid after 1Q loss" http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100510/D9FK02U00.html

You gotta love Dodd and Fwanks.

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Duke_bets 3 years, 11 months ago

seeuski - When do you think the loans were written that are causing losses to Fannie and Freddie today?

I guarantee they weren't closed within the last 18 months.

The Dems aren't blaming Wall Street. They are assuring that it won't fail.

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seeuski 3 years, 11 months ago

The definition of insanity is trying the same failed thing over and over again and hoping for different results. We have no chance of knowing what the cronies at those two GSE's are up to these days, not with the current Administration in power. Freddie just last week needing 10 $billion and now Fannie. We do know though that Franklin Raines cooked the books while he ran Fannie and now he is involved with the Chicago Climate Exchange along with the rest of the Obama team waiting for the Cap and Tax legislation which will be the death knell for the future of this country. An estimated 10 $trillion dollars a year of carbon trading going through that privately owned group. Check out who owns it, when it got it's start and how, and you can't help but shake in your boots about our wealth being stolen. But go ahead Duke, try and defend 100% Government backed financing while a Dem is Pres, you wouldn't if the shoe were on the other foot. It's Bush's fault I guess.

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seeuski 3 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations George, your on your way to manhood. Could a Tea Party be in your future?

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Fred Duckels 3 years, 11 months ago

I think that AH in Steamboat is used mostly as a political tool to control growth and wring concessions from developers. I can think of more worthy causes to spend this development ransom. This traffic snarl could have all been avoided by foresight and lack of special interest influence.

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Duke_bets 3 years, 11 months ago

fred - I agree with you on this one, other than the political tool part. of course, it can be used for votes depending on the argument. AH is definitely a grease job to developers or a bargaining chip for the city to say the least.

I never have agreed with AH. Not now and not in the past 15-20 years. My gripe with seeuski was that it's blamed on Obama. These programs have been around for years and won't stop any time soon.

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seeuski 3 years, 11 months ago

Duke, I am not blaming the bubble on Obama, I am expressing concern for OUR future with an Administration that has plans to continue the spread the wealth scheme under a steroid program that will use Cap and Tax laws to force all production sources of Commerce to buy and sell carbon credits through the Chicago Climate Exchange. The exchange is owned and run by the complete list of Socialists including George Soros and profited through his crony foundations. One of the new ones is Emerald Cities. Why is the new financial reform ignoring the main culprit to the problem, Fannie/Freddie? At some point either you will have to come to terms and pony up with the facts or you are on board with this Social Justice/Marxist transformation we are in. I hope it isn't the latter.

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Scott Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

George - If for discussion purposes we narrow the focus only to single family homes in the West End Village Subdivision below is an analysis.

There are 65 single-family home lots in the subdivision. The median lot sale was for $65,000. It appears that as of now 52 homes have been built on these lots. (13 are vacant.) Of these 52 homes, 25 have been sold at least once for a median gain of $255,000. Of the 25 homes that have been sold at least once, 9 have subsequently been sold again for a median gain of $180,000.

I am seeing no homes in this subdivision that have an owner zip code listed as outside of Routt County.

This was a very quick-n-dirty analysis using Routt County Assessor's data. I am likely familiar enough with this database to be dangerous - however - for discussion purposes I hope this was helpful.

I know that the lots/homes in this sub- division were a mix of homes some with and some without deed restrictions. I am not too sure that assessors data can be sorted out to separate the two. I am not too sure I want to performe that exercise.

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snowysteamboat 3 years, 11 months ago

Those median gains don't take into account that the initial sale price didn't include the construction cost of the home, rather just the sale of the lot. A much deeper analysis is needed, taking into the cost of the construction to determine whether such "windfalls" exist.

I don't remember the last time I saw a transit bus in West End Village so I an unsure how it is currently burdening the City coffers

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Scott Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

Hi Snowysteamboat - You are correct. Most likely the only fair comparison would be the median gains associated with the sale of the 9 homes. I am not too sure that is even a fair comparison because of the mix of deed and non-deed restricted properties.

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snowysteamboat 3 years, 11 months ago

If ever there was the will to do the analysis, I would be happy to assist. Personally, I am interested in the market distortions and personal effects of deed restricted housing. By personal effects I mean the the effects on families and individuals, both positive and negative. I know this is more of a sociological study than straight up economics, but it certainly has elements of both. I think of the individual who bought a deed restricted unit at the height of the market whose price is now greater than the going market rate. Is it anyone's fault but their own? Of course not. But this, as in 100% financing, seems irresponsible on the part of our lenders and policy makers.

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carlyle 3 years, 11 months ago

I asked two out-of-state mortgage bankers what they would lend to a young woman with a stable job making ~30k. They asked what was the value of the property. I said ~240k. They wanted at least 75k down. The monthly nut, before taxes, would be around $1000. That would be reasonable in today's environment, almost 35% of her gross income.

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exduffer 3 years, 11 months ago

Valleyboy must not have been wearing his helmet in the new skatepark. Either that or he is a BMXer who is really ticked off.

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