Hoping to win a housing lottery? | AspenTimes.com

Hoping to win a housing lottery?

Janet Urquhart

Local workers who are anxiously awaiting a shot at the 39 new one-bedroom units the city is building at Parcel D might want to get their finances in order now, advises one local housing official.

The lottery for the project is expected to take place before the year is out, but once when an individual wins a unit, time to arrange a mortgage is short.

“The most tragic thing to do would be to win and then not get your financing together,” said Susan Shirley, executive director of Mountain Regional Housing Corp., based in Carbondale.

Shirley and a several other professionals in the industry will conduct a free workshop Saturday in Aspen geared toward first-time homebuyers. It is being sponsored jointly by Mountain Regional Housing and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, which will conduct the lottery for Parcel D, as well as Pitkin County’s Stillwater Ranch project.

Construction on Parcel D is nearing completion next to the Airport Business Center. Stillwater should be finished and ready for sale sometime next summer or fall.

Saturday’s session will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., downstairs at City Hall. Sessions will be offered simultaneously in English and Spanish, and reservations are required; call 963-9606 to sign up. A light breakfast and free childcare will be provided.

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The workshop is aimed at individuals who work in Pitkin County and are hoping to win the opportunity to buy a deed-restricted affordable unit. What’s involved in buying a home and what it takes to prepare for a winning lottery bid will be covered.

“People often think they can’t get a mortgage. They can actually do better than they think,” according to Shirley. “Essentially, someone who has never purchased a home will be walked through the process.”

The workshop will include information from a local lender, title company, home insurer and the Housing Authority.

In addition, attendees will qualify to apply for low-interest downpayment assistance of up to $10,000 from Mountain Regional Housing. Applicants for the downpayment loan have to attend one of the agency’s free monthly workshops first and be able to provide $1,000 of their own money (it can be a gift from someone else). The Mountain Regional Housing loan can help individuals who want to bid on affordable housing, but may not have the cash to scrape up a downpayment.

The winner of a housing lottery in Pitkin County must sign a contract and pay $2,000 in earnest money within three days after winning, according to Cindy Christensen, housing operations manager. The money goes toward a buyer’s downpayment.

Within two weeks after winning, the Housing Authority requires a letter from a lender indicating the buyer has been approved for financing. This isn’t generally difficult if a buyer’s paperwork is in order and the individual has money for a downpayment, Christensen said.

For someone seeking their first mortgage, though, the process can be intimidating, if not somewhat scary.

“For most folks, this is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make in their life, Shirley said. “If they can do their first mortgage well, it opens up a lot of options.”

Mountain Regional Housing conducts workshops from Aspen to Parachute. Another will be offered, in English only, on Nov. 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Aspen Valley Hospital.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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