By JOSHUA WOLFSON
Interest in Sonora's homebuyers program has jumped since the city more than doubled its maximum loan offer nearly two months ago.
"People started thinking maybe there was a possibility they could buy a home," said Rachelle Kellogg, who administers the program for the city.
About a dozen applications have been submitted since the City Council voted to raise the maximum loan from $35,000 to $85,000. Six of those are pending, and if approved, would eclipse the average number of loans made annually during the previous six years of the program, she said.
"If you ever wanted to buy a house, now is the time," Kellogg said.
Under the Homebuyers' Assistance Loan Program, qualified low-income applicants can take out second, deferred loans with the city. No monthly payments are required. Instead, the entire loan is due in 31 years.
During its existence, the program has provided loans for 22 Sonora residents. However, as housing prices in the city have skyrocketed in the last few years, the $35,000 limit was not enough to meet the needs of many people, Kellogg said.
As a result, the council voted June 30 to use local redevelopment dollars to supplement the existing federal grant money that funds the program.
A few of the applicants said they had considered using the program before but couldn't make the numbers work with the $35,000 loan limit, she said.
The program allows people who would otherwise be forced to rent their homes to buy instead, said city Community Development Specialist Kim Campbell.
"I actually had a woman who cried," she said. "I almost cried because she was so excited to be able to make this dream happen.
Those are the ones you really like to see."
The program's loans can sometimes lower monthly house payments into the same range as rent on an apartment, Campbell said.