The Silicon Valley Voice

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Santa Clara County Creates Opportunity for Priced-Out Homebuyers

In 2016 voters approved $950 million in funds to be allocated toward affordable housing through the Measure A Affordable Housing Bond. Some of money, $25 million, is now being utilized to help first-time homebuyers in Santa Clara County through a new program called Empower Homebuyers. The County recently chose Housing Trust Silicon Valley as the administrator of the program — the first of its kind in Santa Clara County — and it’s estimated that it will help about 250 families for whom buying a home locally was out of financial reach.

“We just started working with the County in June,” said Adria Quinones-Masur, home ownership programs manager at Housing Trust Silicon Valley (HTSV). “We’re working on the program’s design, guidelines and getting legal documents together. There will be a kick-off event when we’re ready to accept applications with an expected launch date around early to mid-September.”

The program consists of down payment loans for up to 17 percent of the home’s purchase price. The maximum purchase price allowed is $800,000 and loan repayment is deferred for 30 years or until the property is sold or mortgage refinanced. There’s no monthly interest or principal payments required for the loans.

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To qualify, prospective buyers must have household incomes that don’t exceed 120 percent of the Area Median Income over the first five years of the loan. For a household of two that would be $120,200 maximum annual gross income based on the 2018 AMI and for a household of four the income limit would be $150,250. They also must be first-time homebuyers, attend a counseling class for homebuyers, purchase a home within Santa Clara County and remain the occupant of that residence rather than rent it out.

According to Zillow the current median home value in Santa Clara County is $1,316,600, which is 27.6 percent higher than last year. Growth by an additional 12 percent is anticipated by 2019. For the City of Santa Clara, the median home value is a bit higher at $1,449,600 with an increase of 35.7 percent since 2017. A rise by 9.8 percent is expected over the course of the next year.

Based on current real estate listings on Zillow, an $800,000 sale price limit doesn’t allow for many buying options in the City of Santa Clara. There are currently seven options posted, one home and six condos, listed for under that amount. A comparison of the median home values for nine cities within the County show only Burbank and Alum Rock as having median values under $800,000.

“The impact of this program is going to be helping low and moderate income households,” Quinones-Masur commented. “First-time homebuyers need additional assistance and this is going to help a lot of people.”

Once HTSV begins accepting applications, the loans will be awarded to qualified applicants on a first come-first serve basis. As is the case with many housing assistance programs in the Bay Area, the Housing Trust is anticipating the number of interested families to well exceed 250.

As part of the program’s official launch this fall, HTSV will be conducting outreach across communities in the County. Special focus regarding this effort will be made to make sure that those working in sectors such as education, health care and social services are aware of the opportunity. According to a County memo about the program, it’s also geared to help secure affordable housing that will benefit children and seniors.

“Affordable housing has been one of Santa Clara County’s biggest challenges for several years now, and it seems to get worse every month,” County Supervisor Ken Yeager said in a statement. “Our people are Santa Clara County’s most valuable asset, and this program will help ensure that the County remains the vibrant, welcoming place to live that we all love.”

Presentations will be given by Housing Trust staff at venues such as the Central Park Library in Santa Clara. Those interested can sign up on the organization’s program information page to receive email notifications about Empower Homebuyers.

In addition to hearing presentations about the Empower Homebuyers program at local libraries, City residents can learn about the Below Market Purchase Program also administered by HTSV and geared exclusively for those living in the City of Santa Clara. It’s a much older program that’s been in existence since 1995 and is also designed to help low and middle income families achieve homeownership. The program helps lower monthly payments by requiring real estate developers to make a percentage of units in new housing developments priced below market rate. The requirements for the homebuyer are similar to the Empower program.

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