Apr 19, 2022 - News

Philly's first-time homeowner grant program returning in May

Houses made out of money
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Philadelphia is planning to bring back its first-time homebuyer grant program next month after a nearly two-year hiatus.

Driving the news: City officials told Axios they expect to relaunch Philly First Home during the first week of May.

Why it matters: Homeownership is on the decline in Philly, according to the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. And first-time homebuyers are facing a slew of challenges in the city's housing market.

How it works: The program offers a first-time homebuyer a grant up to $10,000, or 6% of the home's purchase price, to put toward a down payment, loan closing costs or mortgage principal.

  • Of note: To be eligible, a potential buyer cannot have owned a house in Philadelphia for the past three years or make more than the area median household income — $94,500 for a family of four.
  • They also must complete one-on-one homeownership counseling.

Catch up fast: The program's first iteration helped about 2,700 individuals, many of whom are people of color, over a year and a half before running out of money in 2020.

  • The average participant received about $8,900 in grant funding. Half of the homes were purchased for less than $175,000.

Flash forward: The city is reviving Philly First Home this year with $14.5 million from its Neighborhood Preservation Initiative.

  • The program is expected to help 1,600 buyers in its first year back, according to David Thomas, CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, which manages Philly First Home.
  • The city plans to allocate $55 million to the program over four years.

What they're saying: Kenneth Bigos, executive director of Affordable Housing Centers of Pennsylvania, told Axios that although he recognizes the housing market may be a challenge, he's still optimistic.

  • "This program has been so successful that everyone is in anticipation … from clients, to realtors, to lenders," he said.

Abraham Reyes Pardo, the Urban League of Philadelphia's director of housing, recommends using multiple assistance programs, such as Philly First Home and Neighborhood Lift, at the same time.

  • "I'm a firm believer in stacking assistance to help these clients go in a more sustainable situation," Pardo said.
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