A new boost for homebuyers 

Five days a week, Claudia and Courtney Young rise before dawn and steel themselves for the two-hour trek from Modesto to their jobs on the Peninsula.

Claudia, a housing and community development specialist for San Mateo County, estimates she and her husband, an IT administrator for the San Francisco Airport Commission, spend $150 per week on gas. The couple bought their home in 2004 in the hopes of having children.

"We found out we couldn’t afford anywhere on the Peninsula," Claudia said. "We checked into the East Bay and it was also too much, so we moved to the Central Valley."

But the commute has taken its toll.

"We have no quality of life," she said. "I just turned 30, and kids are not an option because there’s no time."

Though their situation may be extreme, the Youngs are far from alone. According to a 2004 housing-needs survey released by San Mateo County, more than half of Peninsula workers live outside the county.

Last month, the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust launched a homebuyer assistance program to help working families buy their first home in San Mateo County. The fund can also be used by families in the county to move closer to transit.

The program, Opening Doors in Our Community, is available to local workers with household incomes of less than $150,000 and credit scores of more than 680. Working with a Meriwest Mortgage first home loan, HEART offers a below-market rate second loan of up to $35,000 that will be used to pay some of the closing costs, reduce the first loan’s interest rate and prepay the private mortgage insurance.

The program was launched last month and modeled after a similar program in San Mateo County, HEART Executive Director Chris Mohr said. It is the first time the organization has provided loans to individuals.

"We see this as a critical part of helping retain employees in the county," he said.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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