Affordable Homebuyer Program

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Family Housing Resources, an Arizona nonprofit agency, and its partner CitiMortgage, announced the launch of Arizona Homebuyer Solutions (AHS), a $300 million affordable housing program. AHS will be offered state-wide and provide the most flexible and generous loan terms ever offered in an affordable housing program in Arizona. Guest: Carlos Alcazar, Director of Housing for Family Housing Resources

>>José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to "Horizonte". Getting ready to file your taxes for 2004? Next, information that can help make the process easier. And, a new program to help Arizona families buy a home. Also, hundreds of women reported missing or murdered along the Texas border. A valley theater company brings this story to the stage. That's next on "Horizonté".

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>>José Cárdenas:
This year, approximately 133 million Americans are expected to file a tax return. Before you fill out the forms, there's information that can help you. Here now to tell us about things to help you when doing your taxes is Bill Brunson from the Internal Revenue Service. Bill, thank you for joining us on our program.

>> Bill Brunson:
Thank you for having me.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, one of the big things that can help people out is electronic filing.
How does that work?

>> Bill Brunson:
An electronically filed tax return is extremely secure. It will help you reduce an error rate. The error rate with a paper return is about 13 to 15%. If you electronically file your tax return, you're looking at an error rate of less that one half of one percent. Extremely secure in the sense that if you got a refund, we can directly deposit in your checking or savings account in as little as 10 days to two weeks and that check can't be lost or stolen in the mail. It's extremely accurate because the software does the math for you. You won't have a math error. The paper return, the electronic return is one-half of one percent. You can get confirmation within 48 hours that we the IRS has received the return and is processing it. One other things would be the electronic return, it costs the government only 67 cents. With the paper return, it's $1.51.

>>José Cárdenas:
What about the cost to the person filing?

>> Bill Brunson:
There is no charge by the IRS for you to electronically file. If you go through a paid tax preparer, they may charge you a fee. You, the individual, could purchase software from a retail outlet or you can go on line to our website, www.irs.gov, click on the free file icon and there are 20 different software
companies that offer free tax preparation, to you the individual, 9 of which have no exceptions, no restrictions what so ever, 2 additional ones allow Arizona residents to file their Arizona income tax for free. The caution here Jose is even though you can file your federal tax electronically on line for free, here in Arizona you have state tax. So if you have to look at who is offering the best deal among the 20 providers. 9 offer free filing on the federal level, 2 additional will offer Arizona state residents. So anyone and everyone can electronically file their federal income tax returns, but there may be a cost associated with other filings that you need to do, so you want to shop among the 20 to find out which gives you the best deal.

>>José Cárdenas:
There's a lot of help information, I assume physical persons who are helping people and you've got information on the internet in English. What about in Spanish? What's available for the monolingual Spanish speaker?

>> Bill Brunson:
Well, on our website we have a sub website that is strictly in Spanish that covers numerous areas, such as if you get a particular letter, what does it mean. What if you owe money, how does the collection process work? You, as a taxpayer, have certain rights. How to select a paid tax preparer. That's all in Spanish. Or you can call us on our
toll free line, open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and speak to a knowledgeable trained tax assistant in Spanish. It's very simple to work with the IRS in Spanish if you feel more comfortable talking in Spanish.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, One of the big items for many tax payers is the earned income tax credit. What can you tell us about that?

>> Bill Brunson:
The earned income tax credit came about in 1975, where Congress said to the American public, if you work, go out there and try, you'll have a credit on your tax return. It's for people that don't make a lot of money and may or may not have any tax withheld, but they have gone out and tried and earned a dollar. This year, the earned income tax can be as much as $4300 for a worker that makes around 35,500. One of the key components of the earned income tax credit is that you need to have a Social Security number.

>>José Cárdenas:
Does that mean people who are here undocumented are not eligible for the earned income tax credit?

>> Bill Brunson:
That's right.

>>José Cárdenas:
Is there any way they have to get a tax refund if they've been paying taxes and would otherwise be entitled to?

>> Bill Brunson:
They certainly do. We have a particular number, the individual tax identification number, The ITIN as people call it. People can obtain that
number if they have a filing need and they can use that to file their tax return. And if they have overpaid their tax they can get a refund. With the people that have that ITIN number, as opposed to a Social Security number, they can claim various items, such as a child tax credit, on their tax return, claim dependents that they have. There's a little difference, but not a lot, when you file as a resident alien as opposed to non-resident or U.S. citizen. The resident alien status that affects people with ITIN's is different from resident alien status of other federal agencies. Basically you're here with a green card or you've met a particular presence test based on a three-year time frame. There's a lot of help in Spanish with the IRS and there's some specific things you need obtain to file a tax return, but you can get a refund if you've overpaid your if you have overpaid.

>>José Cárdenas:
This is not just the season for filing tax returns, it's also a season for tax scams. Tell us about those.

>> Bill Brunson:
There are several people out there that want some of your money in their pocket. They'll do that any way that they can. One of the ways is to falsify a tax return. Willfully defraud the federal government. They will come to you and say, I can sell you a kit,
for $49.95, follow the simple rules, you never have to pay tax again. That just isn't so. Somebody may offer you the biggest refund in town. How do they know that without working the numbers through the form, or they say they have a special relationship with the IRS. Well, they don't. You want to stay away from individuals like that because you're the only one that's going to hurt. A common scam that we see within the community is where there is one individual that's a tax preparer and there are two individuals, the taxpayers themselves that have multiple dependents or 0 or 1 and what they do is they share dependents. And what that does is that allows them to claim credits, as well as reduce taxes. So you've got in cahoots, a bad tax preparer, two taxpayers sharing dependents and The three of them scam together to defraud the federal government.

>>José Cárdenas:
You have people making people pay for forms that are available for free. Is that a big problem?

>> Bill Brunson:
It is if you're paying for them. All of our forms are free. You can download them off the internet, call us at the toll-free number, or swing by one of our offices to pick them up.

>>José Cárdenas:
Thanks for joining us on "Horizonté".

>> Bill Brunson:
Thank you.

>>José Cárdenas:
With housing prices sky-rocketing here in the
valley, it's been increasingly tough to buy into the American dream. There is a new mortgage program that will help thousands of people own their own homes.

>> Ed Pastor:
Recently, housing in Benson, Arizona. They also did housing around the area, and so you know this organization which has been in existence since 1991 has produced affordable housing not only in urban areas, Phoenix, Tucson, but also in our rural areas as Benson and it's very important that a person who lives in faithful Arizona have access to a quality house as they live in Tucson or Yuma or Morenci. So Today By announcing this program, we do this with great pride. Because Those here know that the program that's being announced today which will give people access to a low interest home, I think in many cases will help the down payment. And more important, it provides counseling. Just to get somebody in a house without any counseling sometimes can cause major problems because they're taking on a debt.

>>José Cárdenas:
With us to talk for about the Arizona home buyers solutions program is Carlos Alcazar , the director of housing for family housing resources. Carlos, welcome to Horizonte.

>> Carlos Alcazar:
Thank you.

>>José Cárdenas:
Tell me about family housing resources.

>> Carlos Alcazar:
It's a nonprofit corporation 501(C)(3) corporation which was created in 1991 when it first started issuing mortgage credit certificates. We issued started issuing single family mortgage revenue bonds in 1999 and since then have issued over 300 million in bonds and helped over 2500 Arizona families. We own 12 apartment communities in Tucson which total over 2200 units and we are the second largest management company in Tucson for apartment complexes and we also are doing a planned community down in Tucson, for manufactured homes on a six acre lots.

>>José Cárdenas:
My sense is this new program takes it to a new level. Am I right?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
You are correct. The Arizona homebuyer's solutions is designed to help low, middle and moderate income families achieve home ownership. The program is set up specifically to help those individuals who have a hard time putting together their down payment. That is the largest barrier in achieving home ownership is scraping up the money for that down payment. This program will help them finance the down payment through a second mortgage loan and also finance the closing costs, and it's an incredible program.

>>José Cárdenas:
What's the problem that the program is designed
to deal with? Because it just looks with all the home sales going on that
anybody who wants a home could afford one.

>> Carlos Alcazar:
I think what this program is really going after is two main things It's affordable housing. Those people, The work force heroes that we call. Our nurses, firefighters, policemen that can't afford to live in communities that they serve. We want to get them closer, have the ability to stretch their dollar with this program and not have to come up with the down payment and they will be able to finance it. And also go after predatory lenders, those lenders taking advantage of individuals that have lower credit scores because their program does go down to a credit score.

>>José Cárdenas:
I want to talk about the criteria. What are the criteria for the program?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
the program will go down to a 600 FICA score and that basically means your credit is based on what you have done with that credit cards, student loans, auto payments and mortgage history as well. The credit companies Transunion, Equifax and Experian will give you a credit score. Our program will go down to a credit score of 600 if you have a borrower. I believe primarily a Hispanic home buyer has an incredible work history, great work ethic and they have cash, pay everything with cash.

>>José Cárdenas:
SO you have people with no credit history.

>> Carlos Alcazar:
The program will help them by creating an alternative credit history. Rent, obviously rent come in somewhere, so we will be able to use that. An electric bill, phone bill, water bill, is considered credit history.
The mortgage lenders will be able to use that as alternative credit.

>>José Cárdenas:
What about income levels, is that a criteria as well?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
The program is statewide so you have to go by the guidelines of what each county requires. It's 140 percent of area median income. In Maricopa County you cannot exceed $82,000. Your income cannot exceed $82,000.

>>José Cárdenas:
How much money has been pumped into the program?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
It has a commitment of $300 million by city mortgage incorporated, one of the largest

>>José Cárdenas:
What does that mean in terms of the amount of house it will buy or amount of down payment it would cover?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
The 300 million is first and second mortgages. It can range from a $45,000 townhome, there are those available out there, up to a $300,000 home, believe it or not. We are not going to limit people that cannot come up with the down payment but those that have the down payment but want to keep the down payment in their pocket, for anything in case of a rainy day fund or if they wanted to decorate their new home, they can use that program.

>>José Cárdenas:
What about the undocumented? Does this program help them at all?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
Unfortunately, no. The undocumented bar is very difficult. You do have to be a legal resident. I know there are lenders out there that are helping people that don't have documents. I want to stress that because I don't want people to be doing that. Because what will ultimately happen is if the lender finds there has been fraud committed, the lender will take the home away and that person will be homeless.

>>José Cárdenas:
So you mean it's fraud to apply
for a loan without having legal documented?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
Right.

>>José Cárdenas:
Is there a different treatment for non-resident aliens, people who have their green card but who are resident aliens.

>> Carlos Alcazar:
Our program uses Fannie Mae's my community mortgage program. I do believe they are underwriting guidelines. I don't want to come out and say they will help the resident aliens. If they are in process of getting their documents, their legal documents, they have a valid social they have been using for work, I believe it will be able to assist them. Don't quote me on that though

>>José Cárdenas:
It's on tape. How does it work in terms of, there have been other programs to deal with the problem of affordable housing. It's a serious problem What makes this program different?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
There have been other programs available and they have only offered up to 5 percent assistance in the form of either a grant or even a soft second mortgage which is a program we have had and its been very successful. We have increased it by 2%. Because What happens is, if you've got a borrower putting 3% down, that leaves 2% for closing costs and they still need to come up with more money for the closing costs. By increasing that assistance by 2 percent it will completely cover everything they need to get into the home.

>>José Cárdenass:
This is truly significant advance?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
Absolutely. The only thing required Jose, is $500 from the homebuyer.

>>José Cárdenas:
You've got partners I understand in this
program. Who are they and what is their role?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
The main partner obviously is city mortgage. They are the servicer purchasing the loans from our lenders that will be originating the loans. The great thing about this program is There's two mortgages, first and second. Typically, if you get a first and second mortgage you're going to have two payments. You have to remember to make both. City mortgage with the program is able to combine both of them since they are buying an servicing both loans so the home owner will only have a single payment which is just fantastic, I believe nobody offers it. And then our lender list is growing. First we have Countrywide on board which is a significant lender. We have Bank USA aboard. We have Hamilton mortgage, Irwin mortgage. And the list keeps growing.

>>José Cárdenas:
What happens when the 300 million runs out?

>> Carlos Alcazar:
When the 300 million runs out, hopefully we're getting to that point, when we get to that point we're going to approach city mortgage, say listen, this program is successful. Let's look into our pockets, get some more money out and do it again. Because this program was originally started in California and to this point over the last two years they have originated close to $5 billion in loans. They didn't start with a $5 million dollar commitment, obviously. So they have come back and put more money into the program.

>>José Cárdenas:
So the program is here to stay.

>> Carlos Alcazar:
Absolutely.

>>José Cárdenas :
Thank you for joining us.

>>José Cárdenas:
Since 1993, hundreds of women have disappeared from the city of Juarez, which borders El Paso. The remains found along the
Texas border. Phoenix's bilingual theater company, Teatro Bravo brings to the stage Las Mujeres de Juarez, the story of the disappearance and struggles of a family's search for their daughter. (Spanish.)

>>José Cárdenas:
Joining us tonight is the director of Las Mujeres de Jaurez, Christina Marin. Christina, thank you for joining us on "Horizonté".

>> Christine Marin:
Thank you for having me.

>>José Cárdenas:
Phoenix has a very large bilingual Spanish-speaking population, as well, but I think people would be surprised to know that Teatro Bravo exists. Tell us a little about the history of the theater company.

>> Christina Marin:
Teatro Brave was founded Guillarmo Riuz in 2001. We have done bilingual plays, both in English and in Spanish .last year we produced Romeo and Juliet, an adaptation by Pablo Neruda, the Chilean playwright. And we have done several plays by the playwright and collector, Culture Clash. We've opened with Teatro Bravos inaugural play was "A bowl of Beans," by Culture Clash. And we've done The Mission, also.

>>José Cárdenas:
You have done a lot of other plays, but I would assume this is certainly the rawest subject matter that you have dealt with. Tell us how that came about.

>> Christina Marin:
My introduction to the material was when I was doing some doctoral work at ASU studying Chicano/Chicana studies, a class called borderline survival texts, race, gender, trauma in a global age and I was introduced us to the subject of Las Mujeres de Juarez through documentaries, and I began to answer question what I could do to contribute. The script was brought to us by one of our board members and we decided to produce it. I decided the best role I
could take in this part of Teatro Bravo's Mission is to direct this. Not being from Mexico myself, being from… I don't have the accent to do any of the roles. I was really excited to get this opportunity to research and do this play.

>>José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about the facts that underlie the play itself, the terrible tragedies that are occurring in Juarez and have been over 10 years.

>> Christina Marin:
Like you said, since 1993 women have gone missing, over 600 women have been listed as missing, over 300 bodies have been found. And many of them show signs of having been raped by more than one person, tortured, mutilated, left in the desert. Many times bones turned over to their families. Really a mystery because there are so many theories that are just whirling around. People believe it is at this point is a series of copycat crimes because it has become so easy to kill women in Juarez that no one seems to --

>>José Cárdenas:
And the suggestion is that one of the reasons why it is so easy is that many of the women are working, they don't have families because they come from other parts of Mexico so you don't have other people worrying about them being gone.

>> Christina Marin:
And they're always willing to replace them.

>>José Cárdenas:
There's mounting pressure and attention to the subject. As I understand it, you intend this play to be part of that. Is that right? In what way, how will it accomplish that?

>> Christina Marin:
I think by producing the play in Phoenix, we are going to be bringing it to a community that filled with activists. I think there are a lot of people who can have a voice and make a difference with this. And I'm hoping to move these people to action.

>>José Cárdenas:
I understand your doctoral dissertation is on theater as an expression of social change. Is this an example?

>> Christina Marin:
Absolutely. I think it's about combining education and entertainment together. So many times we have educational messages brought through higher education, a university setting, and there are people that just don't have access to that. By using theater, radio, television, by using these kinds of media, we reach a broader audience and I think that's one of the most important educational tools through the arts is theater. Getting a message to a larger public, to the masses.

>>José Cárdenas:
This is such a difficult subject, it has to be a pretty risky venture for Teatro Bravo.

>> Christina Marin:
This is a sort of follow up play to last year we produced "Fourteen", which is by Jose Casas, a Los Angeles playwright, which deals with the binational issues of immigration between Mexico and the United States. And that material was also pretty raw. It centered around interviews about the situation of all of the Mexican nationals who crossed the border and have been found in the desert, also. So we are touching a lot on these issues where the border kind of gives us reason to pause and think about what is the value of human life.

>>José Cárdenas:
Teatro Bravo has built up a reputation for dealing with some of the edgier issues that you - Was it last year the Vagina Monologues in Spanish. How did that go?

>> Christina Marin:
We got a great reception with that play. I think the play itself as the playwright has said is liberating for women and it's also liberating for men to come to the table to discuss issues of sexuality and issues of domestic violence, and really to celebrate Las Mujeres, being at peace with being women and fighting back with some of the troubles we face as women.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now Teatro Bravo does plays in English, they do bilingual plays, this one is all in Spanish. Why is that?

>> Christina Marin:
I think this is a play that really affects, the Latino community, I think especially the community here in Phoenix that is from the border towns bordering Arizona, bordering Texas, California. It is a raw subject matter but these are people who deserve to have voice. And it's something that we really want to offer them as sort of a cultural event.

>>José Cárdenas:
Going back to the play itself and the subject matter, what is happening in Mexico, amnesty international is getting involved, what can you tell us about that?

>> Christina Marin:
There are a lot of agencies, even here at Arizona State University, there are student run agencies that are trying to impact writing letters to both governments to take some kind of action. It's amazing how many Fortune 500 companies actually run their businesses and develop through the Macina Ores. And there are activists that are speaking back to his issue. Not enough. I think it's an issue being covered up, swept under the rug and more attention needs to be called to what is happening. These women, I don't think, I don't think should be considered disposable as they are.

>>José Cárdenas:
You're the director, were there any particular issues or problems you ran into?

>> Christina Marin:
There is a rape scene that takes place in the play and I found that the most challenging part. I won't give away how it's done, I'm not sure how any other director would handle it, but I think the way I have chosen to portray that pays respect to the women by educating the public about what it is that's happening out there. I mean, I can't say that I know what goes on wherever these women are being raped and tortured but I can say this is a universal issue that women all over the world deal with and I wanted to capture those moments. I didn't think I could capture it live on stage, I'll say.

>>José Cárdenas:
Tell us how long it's going to run, where it's being performed and how people can get more information.

>> Christina Marin:
We open this weekend, we have a preview on Friday, open to the public, Saturday is the opening followed by a reception at 8, both nights at 8. Next weekend, Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12, at 8 p.m. and Sunday the 13th at 2 p.m.

>>José Cárdenas:
Thank you for joining us on "Horizonté". Wish you the best of this luck on this play and your future.

>> Christina Marin:
Thank you.

>>José Cárdenas:
We have links for topics on tonight's show on our website at www.az.pbs.org. Just click on Horizonté and then go to links on the left-hand side. That's our show for tonight. Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Carlos Alcazar: Director, Family Housing Resources;

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