Ten lucky families in St. Louis, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio and Kansas City, Mo. will have the chance to own a home of their own as part of the Homewise Program unveiled today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD, in cooperation with the National Housing Endowment, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and the National Association of Home Builders, aims to encourage housing counseling nationwide by offering an opportunity to share in the American Dream of home ownership

Under the pilot program, the National Housing Endowment will purchase 10 HUD homes and will work with a local NAHB-affiliated home builder to renovate each property using in-kind donations of labor and materials, as well as $100,000 in donated funds each from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Once restored, the homes will be sold to selected home buyers for a 50 percent discount.

Eligible buyers must be first-time home buyers who have completed an approved housing counseling course and earn 80 percent or less of their area’s median income. The application period begins today and will continue through July. Those interested in applying for this program can find information and an application on the HUD Web site at www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/nsc/homewise.cfm or call 1-888-297-8685.

After applicants are screened, a list of those who meet the criteria will be forwarded to local officials who will make the final selection by a random process.

Buyers will be required to sign a 15-year loan, at or below market-rate mortgages on the property, with payments to be based on one-half of the home’s appraised value. They will also be required to sign a lien representing the balance of the appraised value, which will be forgiven if the buyer remains in the home and makes timely payments for five years.

HUD is a federal agency that implements housing policy.

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