Philadelphians who want to become homeowners can start applying for down-payment assistance grants from the city, officials said Monday.
Philadelphia has reopened its Philly First Home program, which gives grants of up to $10,000 to help first-time home buyers with down payments and closing costs. The city closed the program in September 2020 after running out of funds. But it’s bringing the program back with about $55 million from the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative.
The funds are expected to help about 7,000 home buyers over the next few years. About $14 million will be allotted for the program annually.
The up-front costs of buying a home are a barrier for many potential home buyers, even when they can afford monthly housing payments. First-time home buyers are finding it difficult to save enough money for down payments and closing costs with home prices rising rapidly, incomes not keeping pace, and inflation and rising mortgage interest rates.
More than 2,700 households have gotten grants through prior iterations of the Philly First Home program, according to the city. Eligible home buyers can get either 6% of the purchase price or $10,000, whichever is less. The average grant amount in the last iteration of the program was about $9,000.
Eligible buyers must not have owned a home in the last three years, must purchase a single-family home or duplex in Philadelphia, and must have household incomes that do not exceed the area median. That’s $84,350 for a family of two. Home buyers also must complete free housing counseling at a counseling agency funded by the city’s Division of Housing and Community Development before signing an agreement of sale.
To apply, home buyers need to contact one of the housing counseling agencies listed on DHCD’s website and provide total annual household income, the source of the income, and the number of people who will live in the house. Interested buyers also can email firstname.lastname@example.org for information. The city expects a flood of applications.
The program’s financial assistance will become a lien on homes. During the first 15 years, owners will need to pay off the liens when they sell or lease their homes or refinance their mortgages to take cash out of the property, according to the city. After 15 years of ownership, the lien will be forgiven.
The Philly First Home program started in June 2019. Since then, home buyers have received more than $24 million.