More than 150 Prince William County employees had a lucky day on Tuesday. The county received 323 applications for 167 spots in the Home Help Program. Through this program, the county seeks to cut the number of vacant houses in the county by providing low interest loans and reduced mortgage rates to entry level county employees. These employees will become home owners in Prince William County in the very near future, which is seen as a desirable goal.

According to the DC Examiner:

The plan helps fulfill a long-time county goal to have more public employees living in the county. Martino [county finance director] hopes the program will help Prince William recruit and retain employees, many of whom live outside the county and face long commutes.

The county invested $50 million in certificates of deposit at SunTrust Bank to fund the first year of Home Help. County officials emphasized that the money comes from an investment portfolio and does not use taxpayer money.

The county also plans to use the $4.1 million from the $700 billion federal bailout package passed last fall to buy foreclosure properties. Home Help is just one way the county is attempting to fight back with the number of foreclosures.

Chris Martino, Prince William county Finance Director says that there will be more foreclosures in 2009 but he hopes the worst is over. The county had 8,242 foreclosures in 2008, the highest of any jurisdiction in the state.

Meanwhile, there are probably some mighty happy soon-to-be homeowners this morning. Congratulations to all the winners!

[Update:  More comments from winners as posted in the News and Messenger]

Warren County resident Michelle Nemerow’s work commute is about to be cut in half.

The Prince William police officer was one of 167 selected at Tuesday’s lottery drawing for Home Help, a new county program that helps employees with closing costs and down payments so they can buy locally.

“I’ve been a police officer for three years, and my husband is a school teacher … at Brentsville High School,” she said. “We both work in the county but could not afford to buy here when the market was high.”

Thanks to Home Help, Nemerow’s hoped-for summer move to a soon-to-be-selected house in the Bristow area will “improve our quality of life and bring us nearer to family, nearer to our jobs and be better for our [19-month-old] daughter,” she said.

Nemerow was one of 55 uniformed officers randomly selected Tuesday to participate in the program. Also chosen at the 11 a.m. drawing at the McCoart Administrative Building were 56 of 160 school applicants and 56 of 108 general county government and parks employee candidates. The program will be annual; this year’s 323 applicants had all competed over 167 available slots.

Why does this ‘lottery’ help the county?  Why is it beneficial to have employees living in the county?  I was happy to see that employees other than firefighters and teachers were included in the raffle.  All too often other good people get left out.  Kudos to the county for spearheading this new venture.

11 Thoughts to “Prince William County Home Help Winners Announced Tuesday”

  1. IVAN

    Manassas City has a similar program that is just in the beginning stages.

  2. Lucky Duck

    The number of vacant homes in Prince William neighborhood is staggering. There is a three block section off of Longview Drive/Parkway that has nearly a dozen empty houses. Most of these have been abandoned in the last year. Wait until next year when they have been vacant for so long the decay sets in. It impacts the entire neighborhood.

    Its important to remember that when the number of homes for sale in the County are listed, that list does not include houses that have been foreclosed and the banks have not yet put them up for sale for a variety of reasons (paperwork, market being flooded etc.), which hides the true number. At least the problem is starting to be addressed.

    Any program that helps reduce the backlog should be applauded. The fact that this doesn’t cost the County a dime only adds to it.

    Kudos to the Finance Department of Prince William County who devised this program.

  3. Moon-howler

    Lucky Duck, Thanks for your input. I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t understand how it all works. Perhaps someone in the know can post. Meanwhile I am glad to see a program where everyone profits.

  4. I would expect that the “investment portfolio” is most likely the rainy day fund, which WAS provided by the taxpayers. Lucky Duck, there really is no such thing as a free lunch so you can’t really say that this “doesn’t cost the County a dime,” however, it does invest the money in a portfolio of mortgages provided to people who would benefit the County…I think it’s a great idea. Of course I can see one caution here…mortgages are not liquid (unless sold at a discount), so if a “rainy day” comes (which I expect it already has, or most certainly will), we could get caught with our pants down. All in all, though, I think it’s worth the risk.

  5. Opinion

    Wow! I’m shocked and surprised! Speechless! Amazed beyond belief! This IS news! I’m surprised there aren’t more comments!

    I didn’t know anyone actually read the DC Examiner!

    (Oh, the story about housing was interesting also).

  6. Moon-howler

    I believe that the county uses one of its funds as a guarantee of sorts and that the bank actually issues the money. I don’t believe the county holds mortgages.

    I don’t think I have used the correct terms but that is the general idea. It doesn’t cost the county any money.

    Opinion, I don’t read it by choice, but I do look for Prince William news there. Selective reading?

  7. Opinion

    Moon-Howler… Just kidding. I’m actually familiar with this transaction. The money in question will be in Suntrust CD’s. It’s money the county has to park someplace. I thought the deal was that Suntrust was going to use the money to finance the housing, the County gets CD interest, and the taxpayer gets a good deal. That’s a really creative win-win solution. Anyone out there who can confirm?

  8. Lucky Duck

    Moon-Howler, you are correct in your comments. The County does not hold any mortgage debt. It is investment money from the County placed in Sun Trust and Sun Trust puts forth the mortgage funds, but its not exactly a quid pro quo. You are right Opinion, that is how its working out. County funds that are invested somewhere, so why not put them where some good is drawn out of them?

    In these times that we complain about our local government and with such a housing crunch here (like in NO other County except Prince Georges MD) I am glad to see at least something positive.

    This originated as a proposal from Chris Martino in Finance who sold it to the BOCS. A smart guy in a no win job. Good for him. I hope he stays for a while.

  9. Gainesville Resident

    Actually, you don’t have to look as far as the DC Examiner (which I never heard of before). There’s an article about it at including a picture of them doing the drawing for the winners.

    Seems like a very good idea to both help out county workers who want to live in PWC and also to reduce the amount of foreclosures that are vacant.

  10. Leila

    I see red Examiner boxes all over the place, every day, especially near Metro stations. However I first heard of the PWC program yesterday morning on a *local* news segment on WAMU, the NPR station I wake up to every day. I believe Corey Stewart’s dulcet tones were part of the report.

  11. Moon-howler

    I included quotes the News and Messenger as an afterthought. Actually, the DC Examiner is pretty good about covering local news, especially government type stuff. They also will send you an am email with an overview of the addition on a daily basis

    Leila, I am sure that was music to your ears.

Comments are closed.