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Homebuyer ‘lottery’ draws scores of eager renters

INGLEWOOD — Hundreds of renters converged on City Hall recently to learn how to become one of the few first-time homebuyers to receive up to $350,000 in mortgage assistance to buy a house in the city.

Residents packed City Hall on April 22 and 23 to learn how to apply for mortgage assistance under the city’s “life changing” homebuyer lottery this summer. Officials set aside $2 million to fund the program with the intent of converting a handful of longtime renters into first-time homeowners.

Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said the program proves that officials are committed to helping longtime residents share in the city’s recent sports and entertainment bonanza.

“It’s another facet of us making it possible for our residents to prosper and benefit from all the development, entertainment and progress that the city’s undergone in the last five years,” Butts said. “It says that people believe in the city of Inglewood, its leadership and our ability to deliver for our residents.”

Butts and other officials have come under fire in some circles for spending too much time courting big developers and not enough time focused on the interests of longtime residents — residents who stood by the city when times were leaner.

Announcements that the Hollywood Park football stadium will soon house the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers — along with plans for an adjacent basketball arena for the L.A. Clippers — has ignited a rise in property values and rental costs in Inglewood, pricing many residents out of the city.

“Homeownership is becoming unattainable here in Inglewood and really the surrounding community,” said Inglewood resident Charisma Deberry, who said she might have to move to maintain her quality of living.

“I do feel like people who are born and raised here are being displaced, but I think programs like this are trying to allow us to get to a place where we can afford to stay here,” she added.

Under the homebuyer program, residents who have lived in the city for three of the last five years can apply for up to $350,000 in mortgage assistance — once they’ve been pre-approved for $250,000 minimum mortgage loan and make a 3 percent down payment of at least $7,500 towards the home’s purchase.

Other conditions include:

• The home cannot be rented out and must be a primary residence.

• Only moderate-income households are eligible, ranging from $58,200 to  $109,750 a year depending on the household size.

• Only single-family homes, townhouses or condominiums are eligible.

• Applicants must enroll in an eight-hour homebuyer education class to submit an eligible application for the lottery.

The zero-interest loan, backed by the housing authority, has no monthly payments as long as you live in the home. It does, however, come with 45 years of conditions. If the resident sells the home before the 45-year mortgage is up, he or she would have to pay back all or portion of the loan before profiting from the sale, based upon a prorated repayment schedule.

After 45 years, the loan is forgiven.

Applications for the lottery are available online at www.cityofinglewood.org. Applications are due July 1. The lottery drawing is tentatively set for 2 p.m. July 30 at City Hall. If selected, lottery winners will have six months to buy a home.

Naturally, Deberry hopes she’s one of the lucky few.

“I won’t have to move. I won’t have to commute. This would allow me to stay here and fulfill my career aspirations,” she said. “It would completely change my life.”