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IBJ Staff Report
    HIGHLAND — The city has rolled out a plan to encourage investment in historic properties through a forgivable, home loan program.
    The Highland Community Development Department is now offering a Homebuyer Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program.
    The program is for assistance with non-rental, owner-occupied properties. Unlike some programs, it is not limited to first-time homebuyers and there are no upper income limitations.
    Applicants must only show that they are able to get a mortgage for the balance, said Lisa Peck, community
and economic development director
for the city.
    Eligible properties are within a targeted, historic geographic area of the city bordered by Hemlock Street on the west, Poplar Street on the east, Sixth Street on the north, and 21st Street on the south.
    The primary purpose of the program is to help to stabilize assessed valuation by preserving the older housing stock in the community by encouraging homeownership in existing single family homes. At the core of it are forgivable, five-year, $3,000 loans.
    “It’s forgiven 20 percent per year, and at the end of five years then there is no payment,” Peck said. Paperwork will be filed, applying to both mortgage and promissory note for repayment, should the applicant somehow default on the agreement during the five years, she said.
    The program will provide assistance with the down payment and closing costs associated with the purchase of a home. Many people are well able to afford monthly house payments, but struggle to come up with the other cash necessary to purchase a home, Peck said.
    The money is coming by way of the city’s general fund, she said.
    “That’s why we’re able to avoid restrictions that other programs have because they are tied to state or federal money. They target low- to moderate- income buyers — this is for anybody.”
    On a separate note, Highland has also undertaken several road improvements, with the largest projects representing two quadrants of a new peripheral route. Those include Frank Watson Parkway (the northwest route) and the new Veterans Honor Parkway (northeast peripheral route, so named because of the banners honoring Highland soldiers killed in the line of duty), complete with trails and bicycle lanes and home to the new Dennis Rinderer Park.
    “Eventually there will be four quadrants in all and you’ll be able to go around town using that route,” Peck said.
    The routes open the door to new development, she said.