Bad Times, Good Times

Federal Reserve Chair Bert Bernanke has told us the recession is over and a recovery is pending. Given the state of the economy, it appears Mr. Bernanke is nothing if not an optimist.

On the heels of Bernanke’s assertion, more and more stories noting the housing market’s comeback have been popping up with lenders once again lending and optimistic developers pushing dirt in the hopes of getting a jump on the market’s much anticipated return.

But that is not to say the region is no longer feeling the effect of the sub prime lending debacle and the resulting implosion of the economy. Like a banquet hall after the early wedding, a significant cleanup will be required before the next party can begin. Only in this case, the cleanup consists of foreclosed homes rather than dirty knives and forks.

Foreclosures, lingering in the wake of the fall of the housing market, have seen double- digit increases in filings in both Nassau and Suffolk when comparing 2008 statistics to 2009. Areas where foreclosures were, and remain, most prevalent are in the low and middle-income areas, where the sub prime lending practices had the greatest effect. But middle and upper income regions are also seeing foreclosures as well. One only has to peruse the ads on the Multiple Listings Service Long Island website to see bank owned properties in all price brackets.

This brings me to the point of this column: Now is a good time to buy a home, especially one in foreclosure. It is unlikely the market will depress further and there are a number of incentive programs out there for first-time homebuyers and those interested in purchasing one of the many bank-owned properties on Long Island.

Now is a good time to buy a home, especially one in foreclosure.

Most relevant are the Neighborhood Stabilization and Community Stabilization programs, the aim of which is incentivize the purchase of foreclosed homes. The first targets specific areas hit particularly hard by the foreclosure wave, think Mastic or Hempstead. In this program, the homes are acquired by an agency, such as Suffolk’s Office of Community Development, rehabbed and then sold via lottery to qualified applicants. The second program is much less specific and allows those who qualify and have found a foreclosed home to apply for as much as $50,000 in grant money to acquire the home.

The intent of these programs is to reduce the negative impact of the economic slide by preventing home values and neighborhoods from declining and offering the opportunity of home ownership to qualified homebuyers. There have been numerous reports illustrating the negative effect foreclosed homes have on property values and quality of life and how the ill effects can quickly spread.

Another assistance program to look into is the employer assisted housing programs offered through Suffolk and Nassau. Check to see if your employer is a participant. If so, the program permits employee access to housing incentives. For example, the policy in Suffolk requires the employer provide funding–a minimum of $3,000–to an employee who can then parlay that funding into as much as $47,000 in down payment assistance and up to $35,000 for home improvement assistance grants. The grant amounts are based on a sliding scale and factor in items such as one’s income, other funding sources, the number of employees a company has and the employer’s contribution to the participant.

So far it has been quite successful with nearly 300 employers partaking Island-wide and more than 300 new homeowners having benefited from the program.

Now get out there and find a house.

conor bly

Conor Bly has been writing about Long Island for the past 14 years covering, well, pretty much everything, from automobiles to zoning regulations. When not writing, much of his time is occupied by looking for that elusive perfect house.