CalHFA: Opening the door to homeownership

June is National Homeownership Month, an effort to educate consumers about the benefits and the far-reaching effects of homeownership.

Homeownership is about building roots in a community, committing to a neighborhood and gaining more financial stability.

“Owning a home is one of the best ways American families can enter the middle class,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on June 1, the official kick-off of National Homeownership Month.

But for many families, buying that first home can be tough, especially in California.

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The Golden State’s homeownership rate is about 55%, almost 10 percentage points lower than the national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the figure includes many homeowners who bought years ago and have been able to deal with the roller coaster-like ride known as the California housing market.

Families looking to buy today are dealing with a much different and more volatile market, with bidding wars and fast-rising prices.

But the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), the state agency that oversees Keep Your Home California, has several down payment assistance and mortgage programs for low to moderate income homebuyers in the state. CalHFA’s programs allow the American Dream to become a reality.

The state agency offers programs for first-time buyers, including the CalPLUS Conventional first mortgage loan. The program includes a Zero Interest Program (ZIP Extra) junior loan, which can help with more than $10,000 in closing costs and down payment assistance, at zero interest, for first-time borrowers with good credit and steady income.

Buyers could also benefit from the California Homebuyer’s Downpayment Assistance Program (CHDAP), which provides buyers up to 3% of the purchase price to use for a down payment. Other programs include the Extra Credit Teacher Home Purchase Program — a special program for eligible teachers, administrators and staff in California schools — and the CalHFA Energy Efficient Mortgage + Grant Program that assists with energy-efficient home improvements.

The amount of assistance varies by product, loan amount and borrower eligibility. We strongly encourage consumers to consider CalHFA loans.

Now, if you’re already a hard-hit homeowner, CalHFA’s Keep Your Home California mortgage-assistance program could help you. It’s critical for all homeowners to remain in their homes, if possible. The stability is good for families and their communities, just as much as a new buyer.

Keep Your Home California has four main programs and a pilot program, each designed to help homeowners with their mortgage situation. Homeowners could receive as much as $100,000 in assistance through the federally funded program.

Homeowners must have endured a financial hardship — such as a job loss, cut in pay, a divorce, a death or extraordinary medical expenses — in order to apply for Keep Your Home California. They must also meet county-by-county income limits and their mortgage servicer, the company that collects the monthly payment, must participate in the program. Don’t worry, about 230 mortgage servicers, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are enrolled in Keep Your Home California.

If you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (Spanish speakers should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.