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There's a program where teachers, firefighters can get a home for 50% off

The program gives police officers, firefighters, EMTs and teachers an opportunity to live in the communities where they serve -- but it's tough to win a home.
Credit: Thinkstock by Getty

Neighborhoods are places where a community comes together – having a civil servant living next door can make them even better.

That’s the idea behind the Good Neighbor Next Door (GNND) program, a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program meant to improve the quality of life in targeted communities throughout metro Denver and the nation. The program offers law enforcement, teachers, EMTs and firefighters homes at 50 percent of their market-appraised value.

“It’s the best federal program in the nation that rewards our community-oriented professionals for their dedication and for their service,” said Bruce Arrant, founder of GNND.com. Arrant is a real estate broker with a specialty in HUD houses who works to educate civil servants about the GNND program.

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The only Colorado home on the market is a 1,200-square-foot townhome in Aurora with a listing price of $221,000. That means an eligible employee can purchase the home for $110,500, half off the appraised value.

So, how could a civil servant take advantage of such a sweet deal?

It’s mainly about moving quickly -- and a bit of luck.

Once a home is listed as an eligible GNND home, it only stays on the market for seven days. An eligible employee submits his or her name in the lottery, and HUD randomly selects one winner and two backup winners by noon the day after the deadline.

A typical lottery has anywhere from 15 to 20 people in it, sometimes as many as 50, Arrant said.

Once a home is won, the buyer must stay in the home for a minimum of three years before he or she can re-sell it.

Arrant said the program used to be less competitive, but the hot housing market has reduced the number of available homes. That’s because the homes are selected by HUD from properties that have gone into foreclosure. In a hot housing market like metro Denver’s, foreclosed homes are rare, Arrant said.

“Back in 2006 and 2007, we used to have GNND listings in the Denver market sometimes two to three times a month,” Arrant said. “Now, we’re lucky to see them two to three times a year.”

The Aurora townhome listing is one of only two made available in the past month. Its deadline is Friday.

Before that, Arrant said a Colorado home had not been listed for more than six months.

“When you’re in a very hot market where people can sell their house and not get foreclosed on, you see fewer and fewer foreclosures and fewer and fewer FHA foreclosures and fewer and fewer HUD homes,” Arrant said.

Arrant said he didn’t know how many GNND homes might come available in the coming months.

“There’s no way to know,” he said. “We might have one in the next week or not for another six months.”

It’s a one-time deal, too. Once an eligible teacher, law enforcement officer, EMT or firefighter wins and buys a home, he or she is not eligible to take advantage of the program a second time.