Help for first-time home buyers


The Nassau County’s Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD) and the Long Island Housing Partnership (LIHP) provided advice tailored to residents facing foreclosure and first-time home buyers at the Lakeview Public Library on June 18. The seminar also cautioned locals of loan scams and how to navigate the county and federal bureaucracy to rehabilitate abandoned homes.

Siela Bynoe, Nassau County legislator for the Second District hosted the event.

John Sarcone, director of OHCD, informed the attendees about his office’s various services, which are free to Nassau County residents. OHCD administers federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In partnership with the Nassau Bar Association, OHCD provides free legal assistance and home ownership counseling once per month. Also, the Emergency Solutions Grant assists qualified applicants facing eviction by supplying a rental deposit and covering moving expenses.

Through a partnership with LIHP, OHCD provides a $20,000 grant for first-time home buyers. According to HUD, anyone who has never owned a home or hasn’t purchased one in three years is classified as a first-time home buyer. Applications for the first-time home buyer grant are currently closed, but the next round of grants will re-open in the fall.

Sarcone also warned residents of loan scams and predatory lenders.

“Before I was the Director of Housing, I was actually a home ownership counselor and to see individuals come in with interest rates at 18, 19 percent, I couldn’t-I didn’t even believe it,” Sarcone said. “There was a lot of predatory lending, there was a lot of shady activity and it was very shocking to see.”

Individuals who suspect they are victims of predatory lending should contact the Loan Modification Scam Alert at 1-888-995-HOPE.

Beatrice Bayley, president of the Lakeview branch of the NAACP, was concerned about the large number of abandoned homes drawing crime to the neighborhood.

“Lakeview is not a village, it’s not a town, it’s a hamlet of the Town of Hempstead,” Bayley said. “But that means we’re behind God’s back, so we get last. So we have to know the names of the programs in order to request them because nobody is going to champion our causes but us.”

Sarcone explained that, in the past, his department has worked with HUD and LIHP to purchase foreclosed or abandoned homes, rehabilitate them and then sell them to qualified buyers.

“To the best of my knowledge, the Town of Hempstead does have a residential rehabilitation program,” Sarcone said. “If you know of any individuals that are in need of repair, the Town of the Hempstead would be the appropriate agency.”

For more information about OHCD programs, call (516) 572-1915.

LIHP’s Community Stabilization Program awards $30,000 in down payment assistance towards the purchase of a new home. Individuals who aren’t first-time home buyers can apply for the grant. They can also put a part of the $30,000 to rehabilitate a home. Anyone seeking more information regarding the program should call LIHP at (631) 435-4710.

Patricia Jones, who operates a non-profit housing program for mentally handicapped homeless individuals, was seeking federal reimbursement after personally funding her relief efforts for five years.

“I was doing it all on my own,” said Jones. “[N]ow I realize I’ve been sitting on something where people could have been giving me money all this time to buy the washcloths, the beds, the sheets, the dishwashing detergent, everything.”

Sarcone said that Jones, and others who run not-for-profits, can apply for grants through the county Department of Social Services. There are also CDBG that are available.

Michelle DiBenedetto, LIHP’s director of special programs, discussed the services offered by her organization, which are free to Long Islanders. She encouraged attendants to schedule an appointment for mortgage counseling. LIHP advises the price of the mortgage a home buyer should take out.

“We do a two hour, one-on-one session with each and every person and that’s basically to help a home owner or potential home owner see where they fit in the picture,” she said. “We pull a credit report for you.”