Idelissa Acurero says having the opportunity to secure a housing loan from the federal government has markedly improved the quality of life for her two teen daughters and husband Antonio.

Using the federal government's single-family housing programs can be a life-changing option, noted Eric Kennedy, loan specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program in Bowling Green.

"It can put people in a house cheaper than they are paying in rent," Kennedy said.

Acurero said that though it took a while, the family originally from southern Florida was able to obtain a $140,000 loan to buy their first home, a 1,500-square-foot four-bedroom with two baths.

"My advice to people is to not give up," said Acurero. Instead of paying $1,500 a month rent and living in fast-paced Florida, the family now enjoys the slower pace of the Bowling Green area where a gallon of milk costs a little more than $2 a gallon, considerably less than the up to $5 that might have been the case in Florida.

"The girls have adjusted very well," she said of the about yearlong transition.

A person taking out a direct loan who might pay 3 percent interest for a $125,000 house, with principal and interest of $498 a month, can get a loan for 1 percent interest through the USDA and drop the monthly payment to $371 a month for principal and interest, Kennedy said.

The program is for low-income families and no down payment is required, Kennedy said.

Kentucky statistics show as of July 11, the state has approved 2,783 guaranteed rural housing loans for $333,725,638; 187 direct housing (USDA section 502) loans for $19,500,000; and 364 home repair loans and grants (USDA section 504) for $2,113,282, Kennedy said Tuesday in an email.

By the end of April, the USDA Rural Development fiscal year 2016 housing program obligated 81,327 loans, loan guarantees and grants totaling about $10.76 billion, according to the Housing Assistance Council, a national nonprofit organization.

Acurero said it took a while to find a property that would qualify under the USDA program. 

"It has to be in a rural area. It was not something that we did overnight."

She praised the program. "This program has been a God blessing to us," she said. 

Kennedy said a guaranteed rural housing loan has a 30-year term and an applicant must have an income of up to 115 percent of the median income for the area. Families must be without adequate housing and be able to afford the mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance. Credit histories are also evaluated.

Under the section 502 program, housing must be modest in size, design and cost.

Approved lenders under the 502 program are any state housing agency and lenders approved by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development for submission of applications for Federal Housing Mortgage Insurance, or as an issuer of Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities. Also approved are the U.S. Veterans Administration as a qualified mortgagee; Fannie Mae for participation in family mortgage loans; any Farm Credit System institution with direct lending authority; and any lender participating in other USDA Rural Development/Farm Service Agency guaranteed loan programs, a USDA brochure noted.

A direct housing loan helps low-income people purchase a home in a rural area. Funds can be used to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home or to purchase and prepare sites, including providing water and sewerage facilities, a USDA brochure noted. Those applicants for direct loans must have very-low or low incomes. A very-low income is 50 percent of the area median income, while a low income is between 50 to 80 percent of area median income. A moderate income is 80 to 100 percent of area median income.

The direct loans are up to 33 years, 38 years for applicants with incomes below 60 percent of area median income or those who can't afford a 33-year term.

Kennedy said another worthwhile USDA loan program provides loans and grants to very-low income homeowners to repair, improve or modernize their homes or remove safety hazards.

The loans are up to $20,000 and grants for up to $7,500. Grants are only available to homeowners who are at least 62 and who cannot repay a loan, the brochure noted.

"This is a program I am very proud to be part of," Kennedy said of the USDA Rural Development loans and grants. "We help people live the American dream – something to call their own," he said.

— Follow business reporter Charles A. Mason on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

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Charles Allen Mason is the business reporter for the Daily News. He is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a 1977 graduate of West Virginia University in Morgantown. In his spare time he enjoys reading, music, sports and cooking.

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