- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) The Virginia Housing Development Authority is considering allowing unmarried couples to be eligible for low-interest home loans.
The VHDA is proposing to drop the "family rule" from its single-family home program, reversing a policy that was championed by Gov. George F. Allen and social conservatives.
The rule, initially adopted in 1980 and reinstated in 1996 after a two-year lapse, limits loan eligibility to borrowers who are related by blood, marriage or adoption. The new proposal would make no distinction for loans to multiple borrowers under the program.
VHDA officials say the proposal to drop the rule is less a political statement than a practical recognition of the housing needs of low- and moderate-income Virginians, who are less likely to live in traditional family households than they were a decade ago.
"I'm not going to speak to the politics. I'm principally looking at this from the business perspective," said VHDA Executive Director Susan F. Dewey. "We are currently the only [mortgage] lender that has this type of restriction."
Miss Dewey said the proposed elimination of the family rule is supported by the authority's business partners in the real estate and mortgage banking industries.
The authority's Board of Commissioners voted last month to initiate the proposed change. A public hearing is scheduled for next week at the authority's headquarters in Richmond. The board is expected to review the public comments and vote at its Jan. 23 meeting.
VHDA ranks third in the country in the number of single-family loans it originates, behind California and New York. In the year that ended June 30, the authority made 5,841 single-family loans totaling about $650 million.
The last time that VHDA tried to eliminate the rule was eight years ago, at the beginning of Mr. Allen's term as governor. The board voted in early 1994, over Mr. Allen's objections, to replace the word "family" with "household" because nonmarried families weren't eligible for home loans under the rule.
Two years later, after public debate that focused on whether homosexual couples could qualify for VHDA loans, a board dominated by Mr. Allen's appointees reinstituted the old rule.
This year, however, the authority heard in public forums across the state that the restriction was a barrier for a wide range of households to receive low-interest loans to buy homes. Those households include single parents and disabled people who wanted to pool their incomes to buy homes, Miss Dewey said.
Victoria Cobb, director of legislative affairs at the Family Foundation of Virginia, said the VHDA should not view cohabitational couples in the same light as those that have "undertaken the serious commitment of marriage."
Opponents of the restriction welcomed its proposed demise. They called the rule an unnecessary distraction to the VHDA's statutory mission of helping low- and moderate-income Virginians find decent housing.

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