Residents gather at City Hall Rotunda to learn more about Wells Fargo's NeighborhoodLIFT program. (Photo by Dave Raith).
ORLANDO – As Orlando continues to rank among the top five cities with the highest percentage of vacant homes, a local bank is teaming up with the city to find creative ways to get more people into those empty houses.
Called NeighborhoodLIFT, the newly-launched program is an effort to help stabilize city neighborhoods that have been most heavily impacted by the home foreclosure crisis. Orlando is one of four cities – Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville are the others – becoming test models for the program by Wells Fargo, which has committed $30 million to support NeighborhoodLIFT.
“The city of Orlando is happy and proud to be partnering with Wells Fargo on this,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, during a press conference at City Hall. “We have to do everything possible to help our families and local residents as we come out of the worst recession of our lifetime.”
The program get further highlighted during a free homebuyer workshop that will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 13-14, at the Orange County Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In addition, NeighborhoodLIFT was created to help communities overcome the dual challenge of being saddled with a high inventory of unsold homes, while also providing assistance to prospective buyers. In Orlando, the program includes a five-year goal of $200 million in mortgage purchase loans by Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest home mortgage lenders, and a $7 million investment in 2012 for down payment assistance grants and homeowner support programs to help families achieve sustainable homeownership.
Wells Fargo is collaborating on this program with the non-profit organization NeighborWorks America and its Orlando affiliates to implement the program.
“Today we’re going to share some really exciting news,” said Larisa Perry, president of Wells Fargo Bank of Central Florida. “It’s the only one of its kind in the nation.”
The innovative program includes the mortgage lending commitment, the down payment assistance grants, and the upcoming workshop, she said.
At that event, the people who attend will also have an opportunity to take bus tours of residential properties currently on the market. The Affordable Home Tour viewing center will preview 100 homes available for sale in Orlando, and then they can take a free bus tour to view those houses from noon to 5 p.m. each day.
“It certainly enhances some of the great housing programs we have here in the city of Orlando,” Dyer said.
As Perry noted, Orlando was hard hit by the collapse of the housing market, even though the city was booming when the market was red hot.
“Today, despite low home prices and historically low interest rates, many Orlando families are still unable to purchase a home because they simply cannot afford the down payment,” she said. “The NeighborhoodLIFT program will help address this issue by providing down payment assistance.”
The July 13-14 event is open to anyone interested in buying and living in a home in the city of Orlando. Down payment assistance of up to $15,000 is available to those who qualify.
To qualify, applicants must meet a certain criteria, including having an annual income that does not exceed 120 percent of the median income for the area, which in Orlando is $69,850 for a family of four.
At the event, potential homebuyers can find out if they qualify for the down payment assistance proram and reserve funds for 60 days, even if they haven’t found a home yet to buy.

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