- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) Conservative activists plan to fight a proposal being considered by the Virginia Housing Development Authority that would allow unmarried and homosexual couples to be eligible for low-interest home loans.
Opponents of the proposal promise to block the change in the General Assembly if necessary. One conservative legislator said his colleagues would move to undo any vote by the VHDA to broaden the loan program.
"If you are trying to help preserve family stability, embarking on a program like this undermines that," said Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican. "We don't have any obligation to accommodate every and any personal behavior.
"There will be a budget amendment to prohibit it," Mr. Marshall said. "If I were to bet on it, I would bet we would preserve the status quo."
Virginia is the only state with such a restriction on loan applicants, VHDA officials said.
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 make 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 Allen and other conservatives.
The housing authority's 10-member board, which will consider the proposal at its Jan. 23 meeting, received input from the public at a hearing Thursday in Richmond.
"I think that generally, and particularly during an economic downturn, the state should do all it can to appropriately increase homeownership throughout the commonwealth," said Albert C. Eisenberg, a former member of both the housing authority board and the Arlington County Board. He was among the 10 persons who spoke at the hearing.
Victoria Cobb, director of legislative affairs for the Richmond-based Family Foundation, contended that loans to households of nonmarried individuals put the lender at greater financial risk.
The VHDA 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 approximately $680 million, officials said.
Late last year, the authority undertook a major study of housing needs statewide in the last decade. Officials said the findings, coupled with input from real estate agents, developers, lenders, nonprofit groups and others, prompted the proposal to eliminate the family rule.
"We're really approaching this from a business point of view. It simply makes good business sense," said Arthur Bowen, VHDA's managing director of public policy. "We've heard loud and clear that if we make this change, we'll be in a better position to serve the people we were created to serve."


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