Case Study: The Yarmouth Affordable Housing Trust’s Buy-down Program

December 2009: The Yarmouth Trust’s Buy-down Program uses the “Housing Entity Takes Title” model, as enough funding was in place to structure an ongoing, comprehensive and systematic program. Town meeting appropriated a little over $1,000,000 in CPA funds for the buy-down program over a two year period. Yarmouth worked with the local real estate community as well as other professionals in the home-buying field to keep transaction costs down. The Trust also worked with area attorneys, home inspectors, appraisers and lead inspectors throughout the competitive bidding process.

The two elements critical to the success of this buy-down program are people and homes. This may sound obvious, but the attention to these components is what truly makes this program exceptional.

The People
Yarmouth did extensive outreach and Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing, going above and beyond DHCD Local Initiative Program requirements. Yarmouth ensured that there was always “a person on the end of the phone line” who would have the time to review the program, provide needed information, and help walk people through the program process. When the lottery did not result in enough names to fill all the home slots, Yarmouth requested and received DHCD approval to accept applications on a rolling basis. In a way, this further aided the one-on-one nature of the program, as interested potential applicants knew that if they completed an application and qualified, there would be a home for them. Some applicants even came into the program because they had seen or heard about specific homes. Yarmouth provided significant home-buyer counseling at the application stage and throughout the home selection and closing process, spending 20 to 40+ hours with each buying household.

The Homes
The houses selected for the buy-down program are more than houses; they are homes. The program was funded sufficiently so the homes are desirable; the Trust understood that applicants were potentially comparing these homes to new homes they might purchase in a 40B-style lottery. The Trust set clear construction standards, and on top of high standards, ended up getting homes with character. The homes chosen are in great neighborhoods and are solidly built. They are all different, and all have unique amenities.

The program is definitely a high-involvement program. All the details inherent in a property purchase (the larger items such as legal and banking to the smaller items such final utility bills at closing and smoke detectors) get magnified by the number of properties involved. Additionally, as the Trust holds the properties while waiting to close to the selected income-eligible households, the Trust also takes on the role of property manager (the Trust addresses this need by assigning each Trust member a home to look after). However, even with the myriad of details, the end product is definitely a success – community-accepted, high quality affordable homes and educated, involved buyers.