Muriel Bowser increases aid for first-time home buyers in DC’s housing market

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DC will more than double the amount of assistance first-time home buyers can receive from the government this year in an effort to help Washingtonians — especially black Washingtonians — compete in the district’s explosive real estate market. .

Beginning Oct. 1, first-time home buyers are eligible for assistance of up to $202,000 from the city, DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Monday. The money, which is part of the district’s Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), will be issued as a low-interest loan that allows households to defer repayment until at five years old.

Previously, the HPAP allowed qualified homebuyers to receive a loan of up to $80,000 in gap financing and down payment assistance and up to $4,000 in additional closing cost grants. Eligibility is determined by income.

DC Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said the increase was meant to help residents “keep abreast of a boiling housing market” at a time of rising interest rates and rising inflation. made other costs of living in the city even more expensive.

“We knew we had to do something to make the program more viable for potential buyers,” he said last week. “We wanted our residents to be the best prepared to enter this boiling housing market.”

DC’s development skyrocketed under Bowser. The same goes for housing costs.

The amount DC officials settled on — a nod to the district’s area code — would allow individuals earning up to $109,600 and families of four earning up to $156,550 to qualify for graduated assistance based on income level. Loans will range from $70,000 to $202,000.

The figure, said Tsega Bekele, chief of staff for the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, is “fanciful, but it’s real money that will help people.”

The district is “trying to get more people to buy in the district, to live in the district, with a primary focus on black homeownership,” he added, making a step change in the program. “If you see that $202,000 is available to me for down payment assistance, you might think, ‘Wow, I could buy a house too, I think.’ ”

The median home price in DC was $646,000 in July, according to Bright MLS.

The expansion of the program comes as the mayor is set to win a third term amid a booming housing market and widespread anxiety about housing affordability in the district. In recent months, his office has sought to expand initiatives aimed at helping Washingtonians buy or stay in their homes.

Participants in the first-time homebuyer program said that despite the financial assistance, they still struggled to stay competitive in the district’s white-hot housing market due to some of the program’s requirements, including l approval of a home inspection, which can be a disadvantage for buyers who come up against others who can get financing faster or who are willing to give up all eventualities.

But other changes could be on the horizon.

Bowser earlier this year announced a new “strike force” aimed at boosting black homeownership and closing the racial equity gap in the district. The group is expected to release recommendations by October that will guide how DC spends a $10 million allocation that Bowser earmarked for black homeowners in its fiscal year 2023 budget.

This increase in HPAP, Bekele said, was a consequence of one of the strike force’s first recommendations.

About 350 people have received assistance through the program since Bowser took office in 2015, officials said.

Mayor Bowser announces $10 million effort to support black homeowners

During his first term, Bowser doubled the amount of down payment assistance potential home buyers could receive from the Home Buyer’s Assistance Program and created a program specifically for provide financial assistance to city workers, teachers and first responders – applicants for this program. program can receive an additional $20,000.

Although the country’s real estate market may be cooling thanks to rising interest rates, Falcicchio said the district’s housing market shows no signs of a significant slowdown.

Officials said they hope to equip residents to buy homes even as house prices continue to hit all-time highs.

“If you look back to where there have been declines in the housing market nationally, we haven’t felt that as much as other regions,” Falcicchio said. Raising the cap on the assistance potential buyers can receive “puts those who participate in the program on a level playing field in a market where people are looking for that first home which may be a condo or a house that doesn’t It’s not at the higher end of what homes can buy in the district.

Bowser also announced an expansion of the District’s Homeowners Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to homeowners in need of home repairs from Wards 7 and 8 to residents across the city. The district has $50 million to distribute — as part of its pandemic relief efforts — and will be accepting applications through the end of September.

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