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Story of Justice: Johnson* Family

The dream of homeownership came true for the Johnson family recently. They were selected to participate in Broward County’s neighborhood revitalization and beautification project in the unincorporated area known as the Broward Municipal Services District. The project assists low and moderate-income people to become homeowners. The Community Economic Development Project team at Legal Aid works in conjunction with the Central County Community Development Corporation (“CCCDC”), an affiliate of the Urban League of Broward County on the project.

Legal Aid attorneys represented and advised the CCCDC throughout the development process by negotiating construction-financing documents, drafting construction agreements, purchase agreements, and closing documents.  Since Legal Aid attorneys were working with the CCCDC on the larger project, it would have been a conflict of interest for them to advise the Johnson family during the purchase process.

However, everyone agreed that the Johnsons needed to be fully informed of their obligations under the new construction purchase agreement and the Broward County second mortgage. Pro bono attorney Zully Vergel, Esq. generously volunteered her time to review documents with the homeowners prior to closing and represented them during a closing dispute.  

Broward County donated vacant lots in central Broward County to CCCDC, and nine other nonprofit affordable housing developers, for the construction of affordable single-family homes meeting specific aesthetic requirements. The sales prices ranged from $219,000 to $239,999. 

Broward County pre-qualified potential buyers, and then made a final selection through a lottery. The County provided down payment assistance to the families in a further effort to keep mortgage payments at an affordable level for each family (roughly 30% of total income).   The down payment assistance was secured by a “soft” second mortgage on the property, meaning that there are NO payments and NO interest so long as the homeowner maintains the property as their homestead for fifteen years, at which point, the second mortgage will be forgiven.  An additional restriction during the fifteen-year period is that the home can only be re-sold to another buyer meeting the income restriction. 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

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