Associated Press Plan intends to increase home ownership rates across the country

HELENA - The nation's largest source of home loan financing announced it is opening a partnership office in Montana, which could mean millions of additional dollars in loan money for prospective Montana home-buyers.

The Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, said the Montana office will open under its "American Dream Commitment" program, a $2 trillion housing investment plan that is intended to increase home ownership rates across the country.

A similar office in Wyoming announced last year brought with it a commitment to loan $1 billion over seven years in the state, said Ted Chandler, Fannie Mae's vice president of housing and community development. He said a similar commitment is planned for Montana.

Fannie Mae is a government-chartered but publicly owned company that helps provide money for home mortgages by buying mortgages from lenders such as banks and repackaging them as investment securities. Fannie Mae deals mostly in Federal Housing Administration mortgages.

Under the program coming to Montana, down-payments on a home loan could be as low as 3 percent and mortgages will have upper limits of $252,700, Chandler said. Grants also are available for parts of those down payments. The loans also can be used to develop low-, moderate- or middle-income rentals, Chandler said.

The Fannie Mae program places special emphasis on increasing homeownership among minorities, young families, families headed by women, new immigrants and others whose homeownership lags behind the general average.

Chandler said Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., played an important role in bringing the program to Montana. Burns recently worked with Fannie Mae and authored legislation that helped preserve 430 affordable rental apartments in Montana. Then he wrote company officials suggesting they bring an office to Montana.

"He did what he said he was going to do," Chandler said of Burns. "This is a guy who delivered."

Burns said the arrival of the Fannie Mae office in Montana will make it easier for more Montanans "to participate in the American dream."

Chandler said the location for the Montana office has not yet been chosen.

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