A married couple purchased their first home in Ward 8 just a few weeks ago, thanks to a government program aimed to keep native Washingtonians in the city.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration celebrated the gift of homeownership on Monday, Dec. 12 at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in Southeast by highlighting Johnathan and Precious Tate, who took part in the Home Purchase Assistant Program (HPAP) for D.C. employees.
“For nearly 40 years, our homebuyer programs have given the gift of homeownership to thousands of D.C. residents, but as housing prices rise, we must do even more to make homeownership and affordable housing a reality for every resident,” Bowser said. “The improvements we are introducing deliver on my promise to ensure safe and affordable housing for more Washingtonians. Come January 1, when these new enhancements go into effect, we will change the way home buying works in the District. I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year.”
The enhancements include:
— Increasing the fiscal 2017 budget for the homebuyer programs by almost 50 percent to $16 million. This will help approximately 75 more households finance their home purchases compared to fiscal 2016.
— Increasing HPAP’s maximum loan amount from $50,000 to $80,000. This will make the homes of many program participants more affordable.
— Revising the repayment terms for 70 percent of HPAP borrowers. Currently, HPAP has a five-year loan deferral period, and when that period ends, some borrowers get sticker shock because of the higher mortgage payments, DHCD said.
For borrowers with incomes below 80 percent AMI, the change will defer their loans until the property is sold, refinanced to take out equity, or is no longer their primary residence.
— Adding a second HPAP administrator to enable the District to more efficiently and effectively implement these major enhancements. The program will be co-administered by the DC Housing Finance Agency and the Greater Washington Urban League to accommodate the anticipated growth in requests for assistance from District residents.
Johnathan, a city firefighter, said that he didn’t mind sharing his success story of homeownership, because he wants to show the community what God did for him and his family.
“I grew up in Ward 5 and I wanted to live here in D.C., so I took advantage of [the Employer Assisted Housing Program ],” he said.
That program provides assistance to city government employees who are purchasing a home in the District for the first time.
Employees of District government agencies may be eligible for matching down payment funds up to $1,500 and a deferred loan of up to $10,000 to be used towards the purchase of a single family home, condominium or cooperative unit located in the city.
The maximum allowable purchase price is $625,500.
Johnathan’s wife, Precious, a small-business owner of a IT firm, said that her advice to people looking to own a home would be to plan ahead.
“One of the things that I want to see is people thinking about homeownership before they buy a house,” she said. “It can take years of planning, which includes getting your credit together, including debt to income ratio, savings and things like that.
“We knew we wanted to buy a house so the first two years of marriage we lived very frugally,” she said. “It takes a lot of planning, the earlier the better.”
In early 2017, DHCD will announce a new initiative that will dispose of single-family properties (lots and buildings) for $250 to create new affordable homeownership opportunities for teachers, firefighters, police officers and public servants.
“My chief mission at DHCD is to do ‘more with more’ to get residents into affordable housing,” said DHCD Director Polly Donaldson. “That includes not just producing and preserving affordable housing units, but overseeing homebuyer programs that help residents get the keys to their first home.
“The new changes to these programs will give District residents more down payment assistance, loan them more money and give them more time to pay back their loan,” she said. “This will give them more purchasing power and put the keys in their hand faster.”