Freddie Mac has teamed up with two real estate industry leaders to revive Atlanta’s Gwinnett County neighborhoods by rehabilitating empty foreclosed homes, providing affordable mortgages and down payment assistance.

The IMPACT Group, mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, Brand Bank and their partner mortgage giant Freddie Mac are sponsoring the Building a Better Block Gwinnett initiative, the companies said today.

The group aims to revive neighborhoods by rehabilitating dozens of empty foreclosed homes, providing affordable, low-down-payment mortgages and potentially thousands of dollars in down payment assistance to qualified, mainly first-time, home buyers, the companies said.

The IMPACT Group and Freddie Mac officials hope to provide the home buying public with a steady supply of quality, renovated homes, the group said. As repairs are completed, the homes will be marketed and sold through participating local real estate professionals.

HomeSteps, Freddie Mac’s real estate-owned sales unit, will renovate the properties. HomeSteps invests an average of $5,000 in repairs and improvements per repaired home as an added benefit to the buyer, Freddie Mac said. This significantly reduces the out-of-pocket cost to the consumer for repairs, according to Freddie Mac.

More than half of all HomeSteps homes are sold to borrowers earning less than $50,000 a year, Freddie Mac said.

“Building a Better Block Gwinnett continues to re-write the rule book for renewing America’s urban and suburban neighborhoods,” said Craig Nickerson, vice president of Housing and Community Investment at Freddie Mac, in a statement.

“This is a cohesive and well-integrated effort to transform empty houses into attractive homeownership opportunities. We applaud The IMPACT Group, Taylor, Bean & Whitaker and Brand Bank for the vision and the commitment to make Building a Better Block Gwinnett a reality,” Nickerson said.

To ensure Gwinnett borrowers have access to affordable mortgage financing, Taylor, Bean & Whitaker will offer a wide range of low-down payment, flexible credit mortgage products, including Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Mortgages as part of the initiative, Freddie Mac said.

The Home Possibles Mortgage suite enables borrowers earning up to the local median income to finance a home with as little as $500 cash from their own savings and includes special features especially designed to help firefighters, law enforcement officers, educators, and health care professionals become homeowners.

“Taylor, Bean & Whitaker is extremely excited about offering mortgage products that really open up new opportunities for home ownership to the people of Gwinnett County,” said Lee Farkas, Chairman of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. “We are pleased to be working with The Brand Banking Company, the originating institution for this progressive new program.”

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