by: Jim Strickland Updated:ATLANTA —
Nearly $3 million still sits unclaimed 18 months after Wells Fargo started giving away free money to Atlanta homebuyers.
Dee Warren, 23, will be the 200th buyer to close under a program called Neighborhood Lift.
She received $15,000 in down payment money through the program launched in February 2012 to help cull a glut of foreclosed houses.
"There's a lot of homes out there in great neighborhoods, and that's what we're trying to do; reduce some of the inventory in the city of Atlanta," local bank president Mike Donnelly told Channel 2's Jim Strickland at the time.
But now, the challenge is not having homes to buy.
"The market is picking up and so there's more competition for housing, for inventory," said Invest Atlanta housing finance director Dawn Luke, administrator of the Lift program.
Fewer houses means there are fewer places to spend the free money. There's still $2.7 million left. Warren has been trying to spend hers since October.
"I would find something that I just love, and right when we would draw up the contract, someone would already bid and it was too late," Warren said.
Builders are actually putting up new construction so Neighborhood Lift clients have a place to purchase.
Warren is part of an entire neighborhood expected to spring up with the help of free down payment cash.
"We're looking for all 50 of the houses to be a part of the Lift program. It's a good opportunity for families, young adults, to come in and own a home," said Mary Cordova of Autaco Development, builder of Warren's subdivision.