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City of Moore offers homebuyers assistance in bid to attract new residents

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The city of Moore introduced the Down Payment Assistance Program which offers low-to-moderate-income citizens financial assistance up to $40,000 if they buy a home in a neighborhood affected by the Moore tornado.
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MOORE, Okla.- Jason and Jana Douglas know first hand how a tornado can destroy a home. They lived in two separate rental houses that were both hit by tornadoes in Moore, but they have no desire to leave the city they call home.
 
Now renting a house in the Plaza Towers neighborhood, one of many neighborhoods impacted by the 2013 F5 tornado that hit the community, the Douglas’ want to buy their first home, and Douglas said they don’t want to live anywhere else but Moore.
 
“We love the community,” he said. “We’ve always lived in Moore, and we were already wanting to buy our own home here. We saw the incentive that the City of Moore is offering, and we signed up.”
 
The City of Moore is offering financial incentives for new residents to buy a home in neighborhoods impacted by the 2013 tornado, and city officials hope that the city’s  “tornado alley” reputation won’t keep citizens from moving to the area.
 
The city introduced the Down Payment Assistance Program last week which offers low-to-moderate-income citizens financial assistance up to $40,000 if they buy a home in a neighborhood affected by the F5 tornado that killed 24 people, including seven children. Less than 24 hours after announcing the program, the city already more than 50 calls from interested citizens.
 
“We feel this is a really important program, and this has come about because of the 2013 tornado,” said Todd Jenson, assistant city manager for Moore. “It is the result of money granted to Moore by the Housing and Urban Development agency, and we felt like it is important to offer this incentive to infill the areas that haven’t built back yet.”
 
Jenson said roughly 100 empty lots or homes remain in 18 neighborhoods in Moore. The incentive program is just one part of the community’s long-term recovery strategy, he said.
 
“Quit is not in the Moore dictionary,” Jenson said. “We are tough and resilient, and this was the last piece of the puzzle in our recovery.”
 
On May 20, 2013, the massive tornado developed near Chickasha and moved east into Moore and south Oklahoma City. The tornado ripped a 17-mile long path, causing billions in damages with more than 1,000 homes destroyed or damaged. More than 300 were injured in the storm and seven children at Plaza Towers Elementary School died in the tornado.
 
The twister came 14 years after another F-5 tornado hit Moore in 1999. Since, the Oklahoma City suburb has battled a reputation for being a “tornado magnet,” urging potential residents to look past what they say are rare weather events.
 
“I don’t agree that we are a tornado magnet,” Jenson said. “We’ve had our share of twisters, but there are a lot of communities that have had more tornadoes. We just had ours in a fairly short period of time. We had bad luck, but that’s no reason not to move here.”
 
According to Moore City Manager Brooks Mitchell, the assistance program not only helps potential home buyers invest in their future but also invests back into the community.
 
 “There’s nothing like the feeling of owning your own home, and we hope this program will give Oklahomans that opportunity, even if they once thought that dream was out of reach,” he said.
 
Currently, there are approximately 100 empty lots remaining in the 18 neighborhoods that were damaged by the tornado in May 2013. City officials hope the program will stimulate development and renew interest in neighborhoods like Plaza Towers, Kings Manor and Hunter’s Glen. “
 
These neighborhoods are thriving areas of the city with plenty of newly constructed, affordable housing,” Mitchell said. “New homes in Moore are built with the highest construction standards in Oklahoma because we care about the safety of our citizens.” 
 
Potential homebuyers who make between 50 and 80 percent of the area’s median income can apply for financial assistance up to $40,000 to help with closing costs or a down payment on a qualifying home. For a family of four, that’s a maximum of $53,850 a year. 
 
However, as Douglas discovered, the paperwork can be daunting.
 
“There are a lot of stipulations and paperwork,” he said. “There is quite a bit to it. We are trying to figure out what we can qualify for- if we qualify at all.”
 
Qualifying homes must meet certain criteria. The price of the home cannot exceed $138,000 for an existing home or $180,000 for new construction, it must have a storm shelter, and must be the primary residence for the home buyer. The city will disperse the $1 million in federal disaster relief funding on a first-come first-served basis, with those displaced or impacted by the 2013 tornadoes receiving priority. The program is being managed by Neighborhood Housing Services of Oklahoma. 
 
“We want potential residents to know that Moore is not just the suburb that was hit by a tornado three years ago,” Mitchell said. “Moore is a city with a strong sense of community, an exceptional school district, a great quality of life, and a growing economy. It’s an exceptional place to live and to raise a family. And we hope this program will encourage more people to call Moore their home.”
 
All applicants must meet the following qualifications:
1. Applicant must not exceed program’s income guidelines for their family size.
2. Must have the ability to get a 1st Mortgage through a bank or mortgage company.
3. Home must be used as applicant’s primary residence for a five-year period following the purchase of the home.
4. Applicant must attend a certified Homebuyer Education Workshop prior to closing.
5. Homebuyer must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
 
Applicants must submit an application and attend a Homebuyer Education Workshop and the property must be located within the tornado-impacted areas in Moore. For more information, contact Linda Rowe at Neighborhood Housing Services of Oklahoma, 405-231-4663 or visit their website, www.nhsokla.org.
 

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Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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