in Houston, Texas
Houston may pay down residents' personal debt -- up to $3,000 per person -- to help people buy homes
Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009, 11:16AM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal


Houston taxpayers may foot the bill for people who want homes but can't qualify for loans based on credit card debts, car loans or other bills, The Chronicle's Carolyn Feibel reports.

The government already lowers the bar for low-income, first-time homebuyers. There are grants for down payments, help with closing costs, as well as specific programs for veterans.

But all that do-gooding is apparently not good enough for Houston, where some officials want it to be even easier to rack up bills you haven't paid but still be able to claim "the American dream" of homeownership.

This is all as city and county officials across the country line up at the federal tax trough, cry about their deficits, and warn Armageddon will descend if a government worker is laid off.

So where's the money for the Houston plan coming from? Chronicle says ...
The $444,000 for the program is leftover money from a $1.5 million appropriation the city made for emergency home and roof repairs after Hurricane Ike.

And where's it going?
The “Credit Score Enhancement Program” will give up to $3,000 in grants to individuals who are trying to qualify for mortgages through the city’s homebuyers assistance program.

So, instead of hiring a few more firefighters, putting a dent in Mayor Bill White's one million trees initiative, or even laying down a sidewalk or two, City Hall would rather pay for the flatscreen TVs our fellow citizens purchased on credit at an 18% APR.

You don't like those ideas? Here's another one: Seems like we have a hurricane scare or two here every year. Could be we have another situation like the one post-Ike, in which the populace may want tax money spent for home repairs.

Should we save the money for a rainy, post-hurricane day?

Nah, we've already got it in our hot hands. Better just spend it.

Also see blogHOUSTON's discussion and a lively conversation at the Chronicle's forum.

Photo of a credit card by flickr user liewcf used via the Creative Commons license.

Comments
Charlie Domino
Tuesday, 02/24/2009 - 11:59AM

I take exception to the words "qualify for loans" above. The Houston homebuyer's program, otherwise known as Houston Hope is not a loan program -- it's a grant program, giving up to $37,500 towards the down payment on a new home in certain neighborhoods.

In other words, after $37.5k of taxpayer money, the grifter doesn't qualify, we'll give them ANOTHER $3k to pay off all those nachos and DVD rentals -- and the plasma TV.

My brother and I just paid $15,000 towards the principal of our home loan this week. It's from our recently-passed mother's life insurance. Are we incensed at this? "You bet your bippy."

Jennifer Peebles
Tuesday, 02/24/2009 - 12:29PM

Charlie,

Welcome to our site, and thank you for reading and commenting. I'll pass your concerns about the wording on to my colleagues.

Take care,

Jennifer P.

jennifer@texaswatchdog.org

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