Home Front

A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

September 11, 2008
Syphax rallies supporters for congressional DPA showdown
 I happened to listen in on a national conference call this morning, where Scott Syphax, president and CEO of Sacramento's Nehemiah Corp.of America, was firing up his team to save down payment assistance. He had 9,700 people on the call.

  In recent days there's been a flurry of stories about new congressional support to save the tool that many in the real estate industry think is critical for a real estate recovery.

 The Wall Street Journal had a story on national efforts to turn Washington toward resurrecting down payment assistance. This afternoon I also spotted a Builder Magazine story that said it's not likely to be resurrected because of Senate Republican resistance.

Syphax likened it on the phone to a comeback game: "We're in the fourth quarter and the score is almost tied up. We need one more touchdown."

He predicted that supporters of down payment assistance will prevail - and before Oct. 1 when it's scheduled to end. The nation's new housing bill passed in July killed the practice.

It's been controversial for years. The federal government has done studies saying people who use it are more likely than others to foreclose. And it disdains a common practice of sellers, often home builders, bumping up the price to cover the down payment. Critics say that unfairly inflates home costs for those who can least afford it.

Nehemiah's Syphax said he discourages raising prices and defends the practice as a critical path for lower-income homeowners to get into homeownership, and start building equity for the family. His firm also disputes federal studies, saying those who get down payment assistance are NOT more likely to lose the house to foreclosure.

The debate goes on and on. But Syphax said the House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to hear a bill resurrecting the practice this coming Tuesday. More details in Friday's Home Front column in the print edition of The Bee.

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