Pima County, Arizona – Pima County has opened its first housing center at 801 W. Congress St., one convenient location to help residents rent, buy, improve and hold onto their homes.
Pima County Housing Center at 801 W. Congress St.
The center at the county-owned El Banco building works with Don’t Borrow Trouble® Pima County and nine local housing counseling agencies certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help residents find affordable homes and obtain fair financing and to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
More than 11,000 foreclosure notices were filed and more than 6,700 properties were sold at auction in Pima County in 2010. Arizona had the second-highest state foreclosure rate for the second year in a row, according to RealtyTrac.
The Housing Center and its partners:
- Help homeowners with mortgage modification and foreclosure prevention or recovery.
- Assist individuals and families who have been victims of fraud and rescue scams.
- Help individuals obtain emergency rent, mortgage and utility assistance.
- Provide access to resources, information, counseling, classes, computers, and workshops to help Pima County residents purchase, repair and make their homes more energy efficient; find affordable rentals; improve their credit; and save and manage their money.
The center’s manager, Betty Villegas, gives an example of the kind of help Pima County residents can expect from the center and its partners:
A Pima County family on the verge of a trustee sale called for help a year ago. The couple bought their house in 2006 by obtaining two loans, one for 20 percent and the other for 80 percent of the home’s cost. When they received their subprime mortgages the lender and realtor assured them they could refinance after one year.
“But they couldn’t,” Villegas said. “In 2010 they lost their jobs, and that’s when they came to us. After struggling on their behalf with their mortgage lender for a year, we finally connected with someone willing to listen.
“We just got word that the modification was approved. They reduced the interest rate and the monthly payment amount. They waived all the late fees.
“It’s really a fresh start for this young couple who persevered and never gave up hope,” Villegas said.
On Tuesday, June 21, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will issue a proclamation that June is “National Homeownership Month.”
El Banco was constructed in 1974 as a bank. It was designed by the late Frederico Palafox and, according to local architect Corky Poster, is one of his most important works in Tucson.
At the recommendation of County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, the Board of Supervisors approved the adaptive reuse of the El Banco building for the center in April.
The Pima County Housing Commission unanimously approved using 2004 Pima County bond funds to convert the El Banco building into the housing center. The conversion work also made the building much more energy efficient.
Work is under way to enclose the building’s former drive-up window area to create a room for large meetings and community events.
Its first scheduled community event will be a workshop presenting the newly created Pima County Community Land Trust, a homeownership program that helps low-income families to buy a home and build equity while keeping the housing unit affordable for the next buyer. The workshop will be 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 14, at the center.
Supervisor Richard Elías said the center is a welcome addition to his district.
“The El Banco location is a great one because it is in the heart of downtown and some of the most stable neighborhoods in Tucson,” he said. “It is going to lead to a better quality of life and show residents how to adapt the homes in our community to make them more sustainable.”
The 5,800-square-foot center is accessible by bus and is close to Interstate 10. It is east of the El Rio Health Center on Congress and three blocks south of the Bonita Street complex that includes a Pima County One-Stop employment assistance center and the City of Tucson Housing Office.
Call the Pima County Housing Center at 624-2947 or stop by between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.