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December 24, 2007 Miami Herald

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North Miami distributes loans for affordable housing

The Community Redevelopment Agency Board recently recognized the 24 people who will receive the CRA'S first batch of loans for affordable housing.


Eliud and Rosemarie Guerrier have learned about mortgages and taxes. They know about interest and credit.

And now they know what it is like to be able to buy their first home.

The couple is one of 14 families who is part of the first wave to receive a $50,000 loan from North Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency.

The Guerriers found a two-bedroom condo in the Whitehouse, located at 13700 NE Sixth Ave., for $180,000. The $50,000 loan will be used as a down payment.

''It really helps because it would be difficult to buy anything without the help from the CRA,'' Eliud Guerrier said. ``We thank God that we will be able to have our own property.''

North Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency was created in 2004 to spruce up a large swath of the city. Part of the goal was to make housing affordable and help people rehabilitate their existing homes.

While the final details of the Guerriers' mortgage have not yet been worked out, Executive Vice President of NANAY Bennie Trinidad said he can see the fruits of the work of the Housing Partnership, which is made up of NANAY, Little Haiti Housing and Neighborhood Housing Services.

''This has been a mission we have had for a very long time,'' Trinidad said.

Earlier this year the Housing Partnership held an open enrollment for North Miami residents to apply for four different programs: housing in the city's future affordable housing development, Pioneer Gardens; loans to buy a new house; rental assistance; and home rehabilitation. The applicants also went through several training courses to learn about topics like buying a home.

Francis Jackson, 81, said he has been trying to get his house fixed since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, but money has been tight.

The loan will help him get the roof repaired.

''This takes a lot of pressure off of me,'' he said.

After extensive reviews of the application, loans were given on first-come first-served basis as long as the applicants were preapproved. In addition to the 14 families receiving money to buy homes, 10 people are receiving between $25,000 and $50,000 to rehabilitate their existing home. In total, the CRA will dish out more than $1 million generated from tax revenue, CRA Executive Director Tony Crapp Sr. said. Crapp said the agency will likely give more loans next year.

''This is very good day for us,'' Crapp said after the Guerriers and other people receiving help made an appearance at the Dec. 11 CRA Board meeting.

The loans will have to be paid back eventually, Trinidad said, but it is likely the payments will be between $20-$50 a month until completely repaid. The payments will be decided on an individual basis, Trinidad said.

For the Guerriers, who have been living in a rental for years, the money means they and their two children will not have to move around anymore.

''Everything is for our children,'' they said.