Sedgwick Co. program offers down payment assistance

Sedgwick County is back in the mortgage lending business through a down payment assistance plan for low-income first-time homebuyers.

The program makes $50 million in mortgage revenue bonds available to first-time buyers who can pay a mortgage but don't have enough money to cover up-front costs like down payments and closing charges.

County officials are finalizing details of the plan for a rollout later this month. For information, call the county housing office at 316-660-7270.

"There are a lot of people who, once in place in a home, can go ahead and make the mortgage payment," Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh said.

"But coming up with a 10 percent or whatever down payment, they don't have that available. ... It helps the individual get a home and it helps keep the housing market going while not being a drain on county resources."

Dorsha Kirksey, director of the county's housing department, said the program is a redesigned version of the 25-year-old Kansas Local Government Stateside Housing Program.

Instead of the traditional 4 percent grant to qualified first-timers, it instead offers a five-year mortgage, probably at around 6 percent, as a second mortgage for qualifying buyers and homes.

The program carries income limits tailored to the applicant, but makes the down payment assistance available to buy homes priced in excess of $200,000.

The program comes at a time when many home lenders are requiring significant down payments from borrowers, and are hesitant to allow second mortgages like the county program.

But Gary Schmitt, who oversees residential and commercial lending at Wichita's Intrust Bank, said the program is a good community investment.

"Historically, these have been a really good deal," Schmitt said. "In today's environment, they're unique, but we still have to figure out ways to provide money to people who can afford homes but not have the means to get in."

Kirksey said the retooled program has been on hold since 2008 because of the housing market meltdown.

It was revived through the U.S. Treasury Department's initiative for state and local home finance agencies.

Kirksey said Treasury will buy $30 million of the bonds, with the other $20 million sold on the private market.