Underway in Lancaster
The City of Lancaster joined with new homeowners, the Birt family, to celebrate the closing on the purchase of their new home through the city’s First-Time Homebuyer Program (FTHBP). The Birts are one of six recipients of down payment assistance under the program.
“Today’s housing market has made it incredibly difficult for Lancaster residents to purchase their first homes, both in terms of housing prices and interest rates,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris. “The City Council has made it a priority to give these hard-working families a hand up. This program not only helps them bridge the funding gap to buy their first home; it also puts them on a solid path to building generational wealth."
The First-Time Home Buyer Program was designed to alleviate the challenges faced by first-time homebuyers in a competitive housing market. With the median sale price for a home in Lancaster reaching approximately $463,000 in October 2023 according to Redfin, many aspiring homeowners have found it difficult to achieve their dreams of homeownership.
The program addresses this issue by providing loans of up to 40% of the purchase price or a maximum of $150,000 to eligible first-time homebuyers looking to purchase a home within city limits. The recipients come from various backgrounds, ranging from single parents with children to young couples and professionals starting their journey toward homeownership.
To date, six families and individuals have closed on homes under the program. Six additional participants have been approved for funding and are currently shopping for homes.
Parris commented on the program’s success, stating, "For the families that have benefited from the program, it’s been life-changing for them to be able to buy a home in the community they want to live in."
One of the key objectives of the program is to assist low-income homebuyers who often earn too much to qualify for traditional subsidized housing programs but are still priced out of the housing market. The program assisted residents earning up to 80% of the area median income, which translates to approximately $100,900 for a four-person household, along with meeting other eligibility criteria.
The FTHBP loan is structured as a second mortgage, providing relief by deferring payments until the home is sold to ensure that more money remains in homeowners’ pockets each month, easing the financial burden of purchasing a home. Prospective homebuyers are also required to contribute a minimum of 3% of the purchase price toward the down payment, a lower requirement compared to traditional mortgages.
Under Lancaster’s program, the maximum home price for an eligible property is $570,000. One of the standout features of this program is that the city’s assistance is provided as a no-interest, forgivable loan. The city secures its investment in the community by placing a lien on the property for 15 years or until the property is sold. For every year a homeowner resides in their home after the sixth year, 10% of the loan is forgiven, with complete forgiveness achieved if the homebuyer stays in the house for at least 15 years.
For more information on the Lancaster First-Time Home Buyer Program, visit the official website at www.cityoflancasterca.gov/fthbp.