A little more than two years ago, Melissa Centifonti was looking to purchase a house.
The newly minted realtor made a decent living but still worried about expenses and climbing the final hills before home ownership. She wanted a nice home in affordable Levittown that also wasn’t far from her family in Fairless Hills.
While talking to a mortgage specialist, she was refereed to the Bucks County First Time Homebuyer Program, which offers no-interest deferred loans of up to $10,000 for closing costs and/or down payment assistance for eligible home buyers.
Shortly after, she purchased a home for her and her son. The Bucks County First Time Homebuyer Program loan gave her some wiggle room for an emergency fund as she made the big investment.
On Tuesday at the Bucks County Administration Building in Doylestown Borough, Centifonti was with area officials as they announced a $1.6 million expansion of the program that has already helped 720 households since 1994. The funds will be invested in the program over a five-year period.
The program, which is supported by the Bucks County Department of Housing Services and the Bucks County Housing Authority, has been funded through the Bucks County Housing Trust Fund, which draws from a portion of county real estate fees. Since 1994, the program has made an investment of about $4.5 million.
Jeffrey Fields, director of the Bucks County Department of Housing Services, said the program has money returned when residents refinance or sell their home and have to pay the no-interest loan back.
The maximum loan is $10,000, but the average amount doled out is $6,000, Fields said.
The new influx on funds comes from the Bucks County Housing Authority, which operates affordable housing properties across the county and also serves as the local administrator of the federal Section 8 program. Bucks County Commissioners Chairperson Robert Loughery said the Housing Authority has seen stable revenues and directed the funds to related programs and growing their savings.
The Bucks County First Time Homebuyer Program is open to households earning less than 80 percent of county median household income. The program requires counseling on the home ownership process, budgeting, and mortgage terms. The program is open to Bucks County residents, people who work in Bucks County and want to live here, and those in the military.
Sherry Pace, who works with applicants through the Bucks County Housing Group, said anyone interested has to take part in an online webinar first to make sure they are qualified.
For Centifonti, that webinar helped her realize she was eligible for the program.
“I kept looking and I checked every box,” she said. “This is a program for the middle class and I think it’s a wonderful asset for the community. “
Centifonti, who lives in Middletown’s Levittown section, realized during Tuesday’s event that she lives in the same neighborhood as Bucks County Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia.
Ellis-Marseglia heralded the program and pointed to the importance of affordable housing.
The program is part of economic development that aims to keep the workforce in the county, Loughery said.