- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

RICHMOND Despite a plea from Gov. Mark R. Warner, the Virginia Housing Development Authority's board declined yesterday to vote on a proposal that would make homosexual couples eligible for low-interest home loans.
The board opted instead to consider an amendment that would exclude homosexual couples from such eligibility while providing loans for the disabled and elderly as well as single parents or custodians of minor children.
Current regulations restrict the joint purchase of a home to people related by birth, marriage or custodial guardianship. Late last year, the authority undertook a major study of housing needs statewide. Officials said the findings, coupled with input from real estate agents, developers, lenders, nonprofit groups and others, prompted the staff proposal to eliminate the family rules.
William Leighty, the Democratic governor's chief of staff, showed up at the packed meeting to present a letter urging the board to make homosexual couples, single parents, the disabled and elderly eligible for low-interest loans.
Virginia is the only state with such a family restriction on loan applicants, VHDA officials said.
Conservative activists fought the proposal to include homosexuals and threatened to block the change in the General Assembly if necessary.
"We are certainly pleased" by the board's 6-1 vote, said Victoria Cobb, director of legislative affairs for the Richmond-based Family Foundation.
Emily Field, carrying a placard reading "Homeownership is Good for VA," was disappointed by the board's action. "It would be a shame if VHDA catered to the religious right and sacrificed Virginia's economic future," she said.
Danielle Poux, chairman of the Charlottesville-based Virginia Organizing Project, said the group was "very disappointed that the discriminatory practice continues against gays. The amendment presented was very blatant in leaving gays out."
She said the grass-roots advocacy group was pleased, however, that the proposed amendment includes the aged, disabled and single parents.
In discussion before the amendment came up, Sam Kornblau of Richmond, chairman of the VHDA Board of Commissioners, said "this is a delicate subject, and I want the board to give it a lot of thought."
But member William C. Shelton said "the time has come to move forward and put this behind us."
The amendment excluding homosexuals was proposed by Charles L. Krum Jr. of Clintwood, who said it was a compromise proposal because it will include the elderly, disabled and single parents. The board will consider it in a series of public hearings and meetings that could take months.
The current 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 have made no distinction for loans to multiple borrowers under the program, and would extend state loans to nontraditional families, including homosexual couples and single parents, allowing them to pool their resources to purchase a home.
The family rule was set aside in 1994, making it possible for low- and moderate-income households whose members were not related by blood or marriage to obtain loans, usually at below-market rates. But the limitation was reinstituted two years later, under pressure from then-Gov. George F. Allen and other conservatives.
The Virginia Housing Development Authority is a self-supporting agency established in 1972 to assist borrowers of limited means. During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the authority approved about 5,000 loans worth about $680 million, officials said.
Two of seven commissioners were appointed by Mr. Warner with the rest named by former Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

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