First time homebuyers in California could receive up to $150,000

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Some first-time homebuyers in California are about to get some much needed help from the state. This year’s version of a state-funded program called Dream For All is offering up to $150,000 per buyer to help with expenses associated with buying a home. All totaled, the program will give $250 million in funds.

Dream For All will pay up to 20% of a purchase price, as long as that amount does not exceed $150,000. It can be used for down payments and closing costs, or even in conjunction with a separate but related program. 

Home prices in California are extremely high following the run up in housing over the past few years, and decades of policy failure. Only 16% of households could qualify to purchase a median-priced single-family home in the second quarter, according to the California Association of Realtors. The average home value in California is roughly $765,000, and the median household income is close to $92,000. 

California doesn’t have enough homes for its population, to put it simply—and everybody knows that. Rents and home prices are insanely high, and it’s resulted in a growing homeless population, at its worst. But really residents are burdened by unaffordable housing costs. It’s part of why people are fleeing the state in droves; between the spring of 2020 and summer of 2023, San Francisco and Los Angeles experienced the largest population losses, according to a recent Bank of America research note. But cities in Texas, such as San Antonio and Austin saw the biggest gains. Not to mention, Texas’s big three housing markets built 300% more homes than California’s last year, despite having a smaller population. It’s not surprising. It is much easier to build homes in Texas than California because of land-use restrictions and local control. The former is generally less regulated and is building homes to keep up with its population and keep home prices within reach. 

Governor Gavin Newsom signed more than 50 bills into law last year to address “California’s decades-in-the-making housing crisis by simplifying and expediting the construction of new housing,” a release from his office reads. Still, the state is practically ground zero for not-in-my-backyard and yes-in-my-backyard development wars. Just consider a small wealthy town in San Mateo that’s applied to become a historic district simply to skirt housing laws, particularly those passed by Newsom himself. 

The money is not a handout, though, and California isn’t the first state to offer down payment assistance. It’s a loan of sorts, though the “interest” amounts vary. Once homeowners sell their property, they will be required to pay back the 20% as well as 20% of the amount the home appreciated in that time. (Should the property lose value or fail to appreciate, sellers will only be required to pay back the initial amount received).

Applications for the program are being accepted through April 29. A random lottery will decide who receives the money. Once they’re selected, applicants will have 30 days to find their home and get it under contract. Dream For All made its debut last March and was an instant hit (which is why the lottery pick method was introduced this year).

Eligible candidates must not only be a first-time homebuyer themselves, but also a first-generation homebuyer (meaning their parents do not own one in the U.S.). You have to be a California resident with a credit score of at least 680. You’ll need to make less than the income limit threshold, which varies from county to county, and plan to make the home your primary residence. In Los Angeles County, for instance, the median household income is around $83,000—and the limit is $155,000.

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