BATAVIA — The local housing and rental markets have slowed down, though the interest in buying homes has not, a housing council representative told Genesee County legislators this week.
Mary Leo, executive director of The Housing Council at PathStone, gave a report Monday to the Human Services Committee. PathStone provides counseling and intervention services to first-time homebuyers and current homeowners who are at risk of possible foreclosure, either tax or mortgage, also homeowners in need of home repair. It also has a handyman program to seniors and implements the Section 8 program for the county.
“Our biggest challenge is the lack of inventory in housing. It’s really driving up pricing, making it very difficult for first-time homebuyers to get into the market, find suitable housing for their families. I think we met with 120 one-on-one appointments this year,” she said. “Only 24 families ended up purchasing.
“More than the 24 families have tried to purchase, obviously getting into multiple-offer situations, being outbid,” she said. “The grants we offer require the homebuyer to receive a home inspection, which has been a challenge ... We have a lot of people very interested in buying in your region, but a lot of challenges getting accepted offers.”
Eligible Section 8 voucher holders are having a lot of trouble finding rental apartments, Leo said.
“We think both the moratorium on evictions, as well as foreclosures, has slowed down the market. We hope things might be changing in the next year or so, but no way to know for sure,” she said.
New York state’s moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants who have endured COVID-related hardship is scheduled to end Aug. 31. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June extended its national eviction moratorium to July 31.
Leo said PathStone has had some challenges in implementing some grants for home repairs, due to the lack of eligible contractors or qualified contractors partnering with the agency. Supplies are also on back order.
“Lots of demand for services, but it’s been difficult to reach all of our end goals with them, the way the market is,” she said.
Legislator Christian Yunker asked about the application process for people for the First-Time Homebuyers Program.
“The initial meeting, after somebody submits their documents, that’s typically about an hour to two hours, depending on the complexity of their financial situation. We meet with them continuously over the course of many months for them to achieve their financial goals. Some people have more complicated credit issues than others. Some people have more long-term savings goals.”
PathStone also offers a two-part homebuyer course, with each part being four hours.
“They’re probably getting 10 to 20 hours of time with us,” she said. “Some of our clients are with us for years because they have an unforeseen life (event). Something happens — change of employment or divorce, or something. We don’t really stop and restart somebody. We just keep moving with them. We work with our clients a lot longer and spend a lot more hours with each one than we used to, because they’re making more offers on homes than the used to. We’re seeing them through more heartbreaks and letdowns than we used to.”
Leo said the organization’s one staff person has done more work with each client in the last couple of years.
Yunker asked if there is a standard amount of financial help PathStone provides for a client.
PathStone directly has a handful of grants, but we are the third party either through the state or through the Federal Loan Bank of New York. It depends on what that household is eligible for based on their household size and income level.
“Some of those grants change from year to year,” she said. “We also work directly with USDA direct loans. That’s a zero-closing-cost loan.”