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New program turns foreclosed homes into affordable housing

Home prices have dropped almost 30 percent from their peak in Seattle, but there are still a lot of people who can’t afford to buy a home in the city. Now, a new program is tackling that problem by converting foreclosed homes into affordable housing.

Under the program, you could buy a house for $85,000 less than what it’s worth - if you make below a certain income threshold.

The project is the brainchild of the non-profit group Homestead Community Land Trust, which is buying foreclosed homes and rehabbing them. John Daoura is managing rehab of the homes, and he gives a tour of one of the homes that hasn’t been fixed up yet.

He and his coworker Erika Malone check out the bathroom. The toilet is covered in unidentifiable black stuff.

"That’s what two years of a vacant house looks like in your toilet," Daoura said.

But by the end of the summer, they say this house will be all fixed up. It’s a small two-bedroom house in the South Beacon Hill neighborhood that Homestead plans to sell for about $145,000, even though Homestead is spending $230,000 to buy it and fix it up. Malone says the aim is to give lower-income people a chance to own a home in a relatively expensive city.

"So many people who live and work in Seattle can’t afford to buy homes even at the low prices that they have been," Malone said. "These are people we want to keep in our community."

Malone says Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and the city of Seattle have kicked in money for the program. She says they’re rehabbing six houses and hope to do another six.

People who buy homes from the program can’t profit a lot though – they have to agree to cap the resale price so it remains affordable. Even with that constraint, Malone says they’re getting plenty of interest.