Woman fears she may lose home over backlog confusion with Houston’s Homebuyer Assistance Program

Homebuyers assistance program
Homebuyers assistance program

HOUSTON – Much has been reported about the woes prospective homebuyers are facing in a market that favors sellers.

Cash deals often outbid bank loans, and in some cases, at a higher dollar amount than the home’s appraised value. Some Houstonians said the housing pinch means they’ve had to defer their dream.

Crystal Medina, a single mom, is scheduled to close on her first home on July 6. Unfortunately, that may not happen because money Medina hopes to receive from a city-administered program, likely won’t arrive in time.

Medina said she applied for the city of Houston’s Harvey Homebuyer Assistance Program in June.

“They promise up to $30,00 dollars to cover closing costs and down payment assistance,” Medina said.

The program, which was launched in late 2018, has helped 259 Houstonians with seed money to buy a home, according to the city.

“Our assistance is a no-interest, forgivable loan secured by a lien. The loan is fulfilled if the buyer lives in the home for five years,” according to a description of the program on the city’s website.

The program aims to get an applicant to start, complete their application and get approved for a home all within eight weeks.

“However, four weeks into me submitting my application, I called to follow up because I hadn’t received any information, and they told me that the agency was months behind in processing applications,” Medina said.

Medina said she called her agent, Vanda Crossley, for advisement.

“It’s too many delays,” Crossley said.

Crossley called a few agent colleagues of hers for advice. They suggested a call to the city. Crossley agreed, contacting the city, which reached out to her on Thursday.

Email correspondences obtained by KPRC 2 confirm a representative reached out to Medina on Thursday to notify her that her application was being processed.

Medina placed an offer on the home before she had confirmation that she was approved for the assistance program. Both the city and Crossley advise against that, but Medina said she felt stuck.

“Offers are being made on homes... cash deals at $10,000 over the asking price,” Medina said.

Crossley said that’s created a dilemma for many of her clients — people who have saved thousands but are being frozen out of the market.

“If you’re financing, a lot of people want cash. They want cash to close, they don’t want to deal with financing, FHA, even conventional,” Crossley said.

In a statement, Jean Gould, deputy assistant director, policy and communications, for the city’s Housing and Community Development Department, acknowledged the backlog by saying high demand is to blame.

“We strive to move applicants through our process – from submittal of complete applications to transferring funds – in less than 8 weeks. Throughout the process, we emphasize to applicants that they should not sign a contract on their future homes until they have received a Conditional Approval Letter from us,” Gould wrote.

It is unclear if Medina’s application will be approved in time for closing, which is scheduled for July 6. Medina has asked the seller for an extension, but when money talks, her request may not be heard.

She said she understands that, but she just wants to provide a home for her 6-year-old daughter, Macey.

“She’s never had the opportunity to have her own space and it’s just me and her,” Medina said.

A GoFundMe account has been created for Medina to have the money needed on closing day.


About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.