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THOUSAND OAKS : Home-Purchase Aid Program Approved

A program to help low-income renters purchase homes in Thousand Oaks will take effect this week, after officials pledged not to discriminate against large families.

The Ownership Assistance Program, approved by the City Council on Tuesday, sets out eligibility requirements that suggest first-time buyers must meet certain household size guidelines to qualify for city-backed loans.

Families with five members, for example, would have to purchase a three- or four-bedroom home to meet the guidelines.

The concept of linking loans to household size drew criticism from some housing experts, who worried that larger families might find themselves locked out of the program. A family with three young children might be able to afford only a two-bedroom house--yet the guidelines would urge them into at least a three-bedroom unit.

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But mortgage banker Katherine Luna, who will administer the program, said she would be flexible in applying the guidelines.

“My direction from the council has been to make the units available for as many families as possible and not restrict people by following the guidelines too closely,” Luna said. “I have definitely not been directed to discriminate against anybody because of household size.”

The 20-year loans, which can help families with down payments or mortgage financing, will be offered first to low-income residents of the Las Casitas Neighborhood in Newbury Park. If the $500,000 allocated for the program stretches far enough, the program will be opened to other residents.

“We have a really historic opportunity with housing prices so low,” Councilwoman Judy Lazar said. “If we give up this opportunity to make home ownership available for our truly low-income residents, we might not have another chance.”

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