POST FALLS - Soon families looking to buy homes in Post Falls will no longer be eligible for the no-money-down loans that some have been accessing through a federal rural housing program.
Real estate agents and home builders said homebuyers in the fast-growing city will be cut off at the end of September by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The loan program has helped lower-income families in rural areas purchase safe and decent housing.
"Because of population changes they're no longer considered rural," said Darren Ducote, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Schneidmiller Realty. He said it's a great federal program and he hates to see it go.
Brian Kleinjans, a salesman for Copper Basin Construction, a Hayden-based homebuilder, said Post Falls exceeded the population limit following the 2010 census.
The change means fewer homes will be built and sold in Post Falls, Kleinjans said.
"Lots of people don't have the money for a down payment," he said.
Cooper Basin, which will build 200 homes this year, will be hurt by the change, as will other builders, such as Viking Construction and Greenstone, he said.
He said the federal program has been good for businesses, like Copper Basin, and helped grow the city of Post Falls.
He said the city of Rathdrum, which remains within rural population limits, will continue to benefit from the USDA program.
As for Post Falls, "If somebody wants a zero-down loan, they're going to have to do it in about 30 days," he said.
The sale wouldn't have to close by the end of September, but the buyer must be under contract.
Kerrie Hurd, a public affairs and community development representative for the USDA in Boise, confirmed Post Falls has grown beyond the current population limits for the single-family housing program.
She said Congress would have to raise the limit to continue to make Post Falls eligible for the program. Congress' first chance to do so is in an upcoming farm bill.
Post Falls exceeded the current population limit of 25,000 in the last census, reaching nearly 28,000 people.
The housing program language defines rural communities as those with 20,000 or less, but that was upped to 25,000 for a limited time. The higher limit is set to expire at the end of September, Hurd said.
Post Falls had been under 18,000 in 2000.
"Our mission is to be an advocate for rural areas," she said.
She said Post Falls is an example of the federal program's success.
"Maybe the rural development program helped (Post Falls) grow," she said.
For homebuyers with low to moderate income, they would go to a bank for a loan and receive USDA backing.