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Realtors pledge funds to assist home buyers

February 02, 2003|Diane Wedner | Times Staff Writer

In an effort to promote homeownership, the California Assn. of Realtors has launched a housing affordability fund program that seeks to raise and distribute $20 million over the next five years for home-buying assistance and community projects.

CAR endowed the Housing Affordability Fund late last year with $500,000, and members of the real estate trade group pledged an additional $188,000 at a recent statewide meeting.

"We're jumping in now because we perceive that the housing crisis is getting worse," said CAR President Toby Bradley. "The funds will allow us to work with cities and counties that need help."

A steep rise in home prices, which have climbed faster than incomes, has made it difficult for many California residents to qualify for and purchase a home, experts say. The state's median home price rose 64% between 1990 and 2002, from $193,770 to $318,580, according to CAR, while median household income rose only 52% during the same period, from $35,800 to $54,280.

CAR's housing fund program, headed by former U.S. Sen. John Seymour, seeks to help a wide range of residents -- from hotel workers to firefighters and teachers -- who have been priced out of the neighborhoods in which they work, Bradley said.

The program will solicit donations from the group's 110,000 members as well as from institutions the organization already partners with, such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, local banks and other real estate associations.

The funds will be distributed through local Realtor groups for home-buyer education programs, local building projects, state initiatives and possibly second mortgages.

"CAR helps pass laws and helps educate people, but we want to have money to help communities realize their housing goals," Bradley said. "We want to stand up and be counted and answer the question: Where will our children live?"

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