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IRVINE : Renter Turns Owner With Program’s Aid

Sharon Horn has spent the past two weeks arranging furniture, unpacking boxes and adding “homey touches” such as plants to her new two-bedroom condominium in Irvine. It’s a job Horn said she’s dreamed about for years.

“It’s really a dream come true,” said Horn, a single mother of two. “It feels good to own your own place. I didn’t think I’d be able to afford it unless I won the lottery or something.”

Horn didn’t hit the Big Spin jackpot, but she was one of 20 people selected to take part in a first-time home-buyers program sponsored by the Irvine-based Jamboree Housing Corp.

Program participants each received loans of up to $50,000 to be used as down payments on houses or condos.

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Horn was among the first to close escrow and move into her home. Jamboree plans to distribute $1 million to participants as part of a grant provided by the state Department of Housing.

Jamboree officials said the program allows apartment-dwellers who on their own could not qualify for a home loan the ability to buy property.

“This gives them a real stake in the community,” said Lila Lieberthal, executive director of the nonprofit affordable housing group. “These are families that simply wouldn’t be able to afford homes without assistance.”

With Jamboree’s $50,000 down payment, Horn put down just $6,850 of her own money. Her monthly payments are $783--less than the $800 a month she was paying in rent for an apartment in Huntington Beach.

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“It’s very reasonable,” said Horn, who works in the financial services department of an electronic parts distribution firm.

Horn and the 20 other first-time buyers were among 125 people who applied for the loans. The participants were selected at random through a lottery process.

To qualify for the program, families must consist of at least three people. Their combined income must be less than 72% of Orange County’s median income, which means a family of four must earn less than $39,700 to qualify.

The families repay the loans when they either sell or refinance their homes. The money then goes to help other families with down payments. Jamboree is now working to secure more money for loans from the state.

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Horn said she fell in love with her two-bedroom, $137,000 condo when she first saw it while house-hunting with her daughter. It is on a quiet street and is close to a park.

“We saw it, and we knew this had to be our place,” she said.


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