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COLUMBIA - Want to own a home? A new partnership looks to make that a possibility.

The City of Columbia Community Development Program, the Columbia Community Land Trust and Veterans United Home Loans will come together in an effort to increase low-income housing options for residents.

"This represents another opportunity for us to reach even more people to get them prepared for home ownership," said Housing Programs Supervisor Randy Cole.

According to a news release, the federally-funded Community Development Department will continue providing "home buyer education" and down-payment assistance. The programs have been around for about ten years.

To qualify, participants must make 80 percent below the median income; A family of two must make less than $47,600 a year to take part in the program. They would also have to meet a credit score requirement and satisfy loan requirements.

Cole said the credit requirement often discourages potential participants from applying. He said by partnering with Veteran's United to provide credit counseling and other financial education courses, some of that stress can go away.

"We can help those who still have credit issues get those worked out, and get them on a good footing to have successful home ownership," he said.

The Veterans United's Lighthouse program will provide financial education classes. Cole said he hopes the classes will offer the knowledge needed for participants to strengthen their credit portfolios.

The CCLT "creates and preserves" affordable housing. The energy-efficient homes are equipped with solar panels, additional insulation, garages and use durable construction material.

Jerry Dowell, the board president for Columbia Community Land Trust, said some of the participants will have access to the organizations newly-built homes.

"We expect that by April all four of the homes will be sold," he said. "In some instances these houses we have are going to be cheaper than a rental house."

Applications can be found on the city's website.

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