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SOUTH GATE : Mayor Among Loan Program Applicants

Since the beginning of the year, the city has offered a limited number of interest-free home loans to low- and moderate-income buyers who live or work in the city.

Mayor Albert Robles, who voted to approve the program last year, was one of the first applicants for one of 16 moderate-income loans. He maintained that applying for the program does not constitute a conflict of interest.

“If it was a problem, I wouldn’t have done it,” said Robles, adding that seven slots were still available. “But the reality is that I’m a teacher and it’s difficult to have a piece of the American Dream without these opportunities.”

Robles qualified for the Homeownership Assistance Program because his junior high school teacher’s pay of $28,000 and $10,000 mayor’s salary places him in the moderate-income category. Robles is waiting for final approval by Sanwa Bank, which is processing the applications.

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City officials agreed that there is no conflict for the mayor.

Andy Pasmant, director of community development, said, “It was the city attorney’s opinion that he was eligible to apply as long as he met the same criteria as everyone else.”

Sanwa approves applicants based on their credit history. The city offers the no-interest loan once financing is approved by the bank.

A four-member, low-income family that earns up to $39,000 could receive a maximum $50,000 loan through the city program. Moderate-income households of four-people, earning up to $54,240, qualify for a loan of up to $40,000. For single-occupant households, such as the mayor’s, income boundaries are from $27,951 to $42,350.

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The Homeownership Assistance Program, with a $1.12-million pool, was designed to fund about 16 loans of up to $40,000 for moderate-income households and nine loans of up to $50,000 for low-income home buyers.

“The community stabilizes when there’s more homeowners,” said Robles, who has opened escrow on a $140,000 townhouse in the city’s east end.

The Redevelopment Agency has put $680,000 into the fund. The remainder comes from a federal grant that the City Council set aside for first-time home buyers.

Although there are no longer openings for low-income people, applications are still being taken, said Kathy Johnston, who is the program coordinator in community development. “We plan on making it an ongoing program,” she said.

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The city also is participating in a Los Angeles County program, Mortgage Credit Certificates, which helps first-time buyers qualify for larger loans by allowing them to count 20% of their new mortgage interest as a federal income tax credit. So far, Sanwa Bank is the only approved confirmed lender in the program for South Gate.

Information: (213) 563-9589.


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