County to buy foreclosed homes in Highlands

EAST HARRIS COUNTY — Foreclosed and vacant houses that were once havens for illegal activity are getting a second lease in life thanks to a new program from Harris County.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia said that the county will spend about $8 million in federal housing funds to purchase foreclosed properties, then resell the houses to residents at a discount. The program targets houses in specific neighborhoods where foreclosures have been most hurtful. Of the 22 ZIP codes designated by the county for the program, three are in the Aldine/ Northeast Area. These are 77037, 77039 and 77093.

Garcia said the program would be beneficial in that it will not only prevent the properties from decaying, which hurts the neighborhood image, but it helps renters become homeowners which brings stability and neighborhood closeness.

To be eligible to purchase one of the homes families must earn less than 120% of the area’s median income (about $76,500 for a family of four), have a job, decent credit and not owned a home in the last three years. The county plans to buy homes within the specified ZIP codes at a minimum of 15% below appraised value, then resell them at 30% discount below resale value. This could mean up to a 40% saving on a home. Additional discounts could also apply. New home-buyers can also get up to $10,000 for repairs. Those interested in the homes are encouraged to speak with their local real estate agent, who will have a list of the homes eligible through the program.

The county says the program is not intended for those who buy houses cheap, repair them and then sell them for a profit. Anyone who sells a home purchased through the program is required to repay the county for the discounts off the appraisal value.