Earlier this month, New York State Homes & Community Renewal (NYS HCR) awarded a second round of first-time homebuyer grant money to the City of Kingston. The $350,000 “Promoting Homeownership in Kingston Program” grant is specifically designed for people buying homes for the first time in their lives, and making that choice with the City of Kingston.

“The Promoting Homeownership in Kingston Program is a critical tool for prospective first-time homebuyers that might otherwise be priced out of the market. The current economic climate, combined with stagnant wages, has made it challenging for buyers, particularly young buyers, to come up with traditional down payments. This program will be especially valuable to prospective buyers because it offers flexibility outside the standard mortgage guidelines. Making homes affordable for families is paramount to stabilizing local neighborhoods and fostering the economic prosperity of our community,” stated Mayor Shayne Gallo. With a population of 24,000 and a soft housing market with approximately 400 homes for sale on any given day, Kingston is ready to help new residents realize their lifetime dreams of owning their own homes.

“This second round of $350,000 is similar to last year’s funding and is available to income-eligible people earning up to 80% Area Median Income (AMI) in Ulster County,” explains RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor. “Ulster County’s AMI is $71,300 for a family of four, which means half our residents make more than that, and half our residents make less. Over 2,300 families in Kingston have incomes below 80% AMI ($57,000 a year), according to the City’s Fair Housing Plan, which qualifies them for this grant program. At RUPCO, we’re committed to helping people obtain safe, affordable housing. And for many, that means homeownership. This grant is crucial to helping first-time homebuyers overcome the cash barrier to buying their first home. In addition to a required downpayment, closing costs are easily $10,000 or more. This funding can also make critical repairs to homes such that the homebuyer is not saddled with the cost of a new roof or boiler system right after closing when they are tapped out on all their cash. Through a broad array of housing including rental and homeownership, we build our communities and improve the local economy. This HCR grant puts the front door keys in the hands of many who may struggle to open that front door otherwise. We’re excited to partner with the City and Mayor Gallo on this initiative to bring more homeowners to Kingston.”

“Homeowners often make a greater investment in their community beyond renters,” added Kathy Germain, Vice President of RUPCO’s HomeOwnership Center. “New homeowners set down roots and are generally more committed to their neighborhood’s long-term success and vitality. That’s when you begin to see safer, cleaner more livable communities, with homeownership as the cornerstone of change.”

In 2013, the City and RUPCO partnered to administer the first-round $350,000 grant from NYS HCR to assist 13 first-time homebuyers purchasing in the city. Buyers aren’t required to be current Kingston residents, just willing to purchase property in the City and live here afterwards. To date, RUPCO has helped a dozen homeowners close on 12 properties, with an average grant assistance of $24,000 per household. The grant funding assisted 6 individuals and 6 families with $1,125,000 in private mortgages; most of those lending arrangements made coordinated through local banks.

According to the City of Kingston’s Fair Housing Plan, “57.5% of the City’s housing units were constructed before 1939 while only 2.5% were built after 2000. The age of the housing stock in the City requires owners to spend more money both on energy and routine maintenance and repair.” Ten of this year’s 12 grant-related home purchases also had post-closing rehabilitation; local contractors performed this construction work, again lending to stable jobs and new income to the area. “In this second funding round, we upped cost-per-unit limits so we can accommodate older home rehabilitation and energy efficiency measures,” adds Germain. “But either way, there is funding available for those looking to buy a home for the first-time, and choosing to live in the City of Kingston.”

Last year, a home purchased through the HOME grant program averaged $125,000. “There are about 125 homes currently available in the affordability range of future homebuyers through this grant. Combine the City’s inventory of homes with the lower tax rates compared to outlying areas of the County, and that makes homeownership more attractive in Kingston,” said Germain. “There are many affordable, homeownership opportunities in the City. We were successful in getting this money to Kingston because homeownership rates were 20% lower here than in the County as a whole. In Kingston, homeownership was 49%, and in Ulster County it’s closer to 70%. We hope, with this HCR grant, we can move those numbers up in the City of Kingston.”

Interested applicants can stop by RUPCO’s main office at 289 Fair Street, Kingston for a first-time homebuyer consultation. For more information, visit www.rupco.org or call (845) 331-9860.

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