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Saturday event will offer tips on Keys to Homeownership

The problem with affordable housing in Palm Beach County is there isn’t very much affordable housing in Palm Beach County.

One of the effects of a county so bountiful in waterfront properties and neighborhoods near every amenity you can imagine is the market often prices out the very people who help that economy run so smoothly in the first place.

Police officers, teachers, firefighters, small business owners, servers at restaurants … they all are forced to look elsewhere — many times far away — from where they actually work.

Consider the monthly mortgage on a house which sells for $270,000 is between $1,700 and $1,800 per month. Now consider the fact that the average median price for home in Palm Beach County is $355,000. Affordability goes away quickly at those rates.

The Town of Lake Park is one of the exceptions. A pocket of affordability, the community is located centrally to everything a resident could want. And it wants to let everyone know.

In partnership with a plethora of local housing, banking, financial and money management agencies, the town is hosting Keys to Homeownership at Lake Park Elementary School on Saturday. The day-long event will feature organizations that can answer any questions that may arise during the home-buying process, from finding one to financing one to finally closing on one.

“One of the problems is, until you actually go through the process of buying a home, there is so much you don’t know,” said Gregg DeLorenzo, an emerging markets loan officer at PNC Bank. “There is no class in high school. There is no class in college that is going to teach you this is the process you go through when you buy a house. This event is designed to be soup to nuts, the whole gamut of the process. It is a great place to go learn to see what the home-buying process looks like and to get your ducks in a row, so to speak.”

DeLorenzo also serves on the Palm Beach Affordable Housing Collaborative, which is tasked with enabling affordable housing throughout the county. Between that and his work in community development areas with PNC Bank, he sees the struggles people face every day as they search for housing in the county.

“Once a month, the collaborative talks about the challenge of the crisis that is facing Palm Beach County,” DeLorenzo said. “A lot of people have to live in Port St. Lucie and commute an hour each way to work every day, just because they need a cheap place to live.”

DeLorenzo said the event is going to focus on home buying as opposed to renting because home purchases tend to stabilize neighborhoods more than rental homes, which encourage more transience.

“What we’re driving at is ownership. There are certainly rental opportunities out there as well, but the key is driving people towards ownership,” DeLorenzo said. “Homeownership builds up a community. It increases the tax base. That’s the view from the Town of Lake Park.”

Lake Park is the focus of this event for a couple of reasons.

First, it is one of the few communities in Palm Beach County that offers the opportunity to find something affordable. Second, Town Manager John Dagostino is a regular at the affordable housing collaborative meetings and has made it a goal to attract homeowners to his community, DeLorenzo said.

“The reason this is important is because more awareness needs to be raised. More people have to know that you might not think you can get a house and maybe you can,” DeLorenzo said. “Lake Park is a good place to do that. There are homes that are not far from the water that people can actually afford. Lake Park itself is a little pocket that is buried in Palm Beach County and surrounded by other areas that are not affordable at all. There is Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter and Juno in the north county, but Lake Park is a place that a lot of people can afford.”

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