The government should keep its nose out of the real estate business. That was the sentiment at the Inyo Supervisors meeting Tuesday, as the board said no on an offer by Mammoth Lakes Housing to start a down payment assistance program in Inyo County.

With region-wide housing needs in mind, Mammoth Lakes Housing Director Pam Hennarty had contacted Inyo county staff to see if Inyo wanted to submit a grant application for federal down payment assistance money.

A down payment assistance program in Mammoth has helped 49 people buy houses in Mammoth since the program started in 2006, explained Hennarty.

Using $3.4 million in federal money, Mammoth Housing calculates what sort of mortgage a buyer can afford, then loans the homebuyer the rest of the money to buy a house. If a qualified homebuyer can afford a $200,000 mortgage, and the average house in Mammoth costs $400,000, Mammoth Lakes Housing loans the homebuyer the rest of the money, but the homebuyer doesnt have to pay the loan back until they pay off their regular mortgage. With rigorous screening of applicants, so far no one has defaulted on these housing loans, Hennarty told the board.

The Inyo Supervisors had decided not to continue a previous Home Buyers Assistance program because the county had to float the money to the homebuyer, and then get reimbursed by the state. This time, Hennarty said that no money would have to come out of the Countys pocket. She explained that the county would ask for the grant, and Mammoth Lakes Housing would do the rest of the work.

This did not put the supervisors at ease. Supervisor Beverly Brown told Hennarty that she didnt believe that government belongs in the real estate business, saying that we should keep our nose out of real estate. Ditto, said Supervisor Richard Cervantes.

Supervisor Susan Cash explained that the county doesnt have the staff available to do the work. The board decided to take no action at this time.

When called for comment, Pam Hennarty, herself an Inyo County resident, said that she believes the supervisors did a disservice to the people of Inyo County, and that maybe in the future they will be more willing.

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