USDA agrees to guarantee home loans

Posted on Jul 18 2000

Good news for local families who want to have a home of their own.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office has agreed to guarantee home loans availed by low- or moderate-income families living on Saipan through the local branch of Bank of Hawaii.

Steven R. Chapman, acting state director of the federal agency for Hawaii and the Western Pacific Region, broke the good news to Rep. William S. Torres who visited the office in Hilo last month in an effort to bring the program to the CNMI.

He said USDA has authorized the Bank of Hawaii to initially process guarantees totaling $1 million, but added the loans will only be made available for properties located on Saipan “in keeping with” the bank’s guidelines.

“At a later date and subsequent evaluation, the Agency’s risk exposure or portfolio outlay will be reassessed with possible plans for further growth of the program in the Northern Marianas area,” Mr. Chapman wrote the Saipan lawmaker.

Mr. Torres welcomed the decision, saying that the Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan Program will be a big boost to most families on the island who have been trying to seek funding to build their house on homestead lots given by the government.

“I applaud the national office’s keen understanding on the need for this program in order to provide much needed financial assistance especially to our homesteaders,” he said in response to Mr. Chapman’s letter.

“Obviously, I would have preferred for Rota and Tinian to participate in this program as well. Nevertheless, I look forward to the risk exposure evaluation report that would eventually allow for the ‘growth’ and expansion of this program to the entire CNMI,” added Mr. Torres.

While there is no specific date as to when potential home loan applicants can be considered, Mr. Chapman disclosed that his office is currently organizing training plans for personnel on Saipan as well as the BOH’s staff here.

Due to the required training and familiarization with the program, he said that there would be a “slight delay” in initial loan processing.

But Mr. Torres said this wait will not take that long anymore as he noted that many families have been waiting all these years to secure financing for their homesteads, particularly from the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation which cannot accommodate them due to lack of funds.

He also stressed that the Legislature has been seeking funding for a local home loan program as NMHC, the chief lending agency for home development in the Commonwealth, has expressed the need to increase its budget for loans.

“[The new USDA home loan guarantee] is a welcome addition to NMHC’s portfolio,” added Mr. Torres who pointed out that the federal agency will guarantee 90 percent of the loan and the bank’s risk exposure will only be 10 percent.

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