LA close to bringing back program to help first-time homebuyers

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First-time homebuyers in Los Angeles, where prices are increasing rapidly, could soon get a bit of badly-needed assistance from the city.

The LA City Council approved a plan Wednesday to resurrect a loan program for middle-income earners, while expanding an existing program for low-income buyers.

Both programs offer sizable loans to buyers for use as a down payment. The loans do not accrue interest and require no monthly payments. Instead, the city shares in the appreciating value of the home. Participants are only required to pay the money back when selling the property or once they have paid off their mortgage.

The two programs were established in 2005, but funding for the middle-income loans quickly dried up. Now, however, the city’s Housing and Community Investment Department plans to use $3 million in fees collected from lenders who own foreclosed homes to get it back up and running.

Eligible participants will be first-time buyers making between 81 and 150 percent of median income in Los Angeles ($48,651 to $91,200 for a single buyer). Those making under 120 percent ($72,900) can receive loans up to $75,000, while those making between 121 and 150 percent can get loans up to $50,000.

Requirements for the city’s Low Income Purchase Assistance program won’t change, but buyers will now be able to receive loans up to $90,000 value—significantly higher than the $60,000 cap now in place.

Income limits for Low Income Purchase Assistance program
Income limits for Middle Income Purchase Assistance program

Loans for low-income buyers will be available for homes up to $475,000 in price, but the middle-income loans will have no home price limit.

Under the plan approved by the council, HCIDLA will seek additional funding for both programs from Neighborhood Housing Sevices of Los Angeles County. The legislation is now awaiting the mayor’s signature.

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