Six assistance programs for first-time homebuyers in Illinois

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Aug 19, 2014

A  2012 study by the National Association of Realtors found that home ownership improved local economies and helped maintain stronger communities. It found that owner-occupied households saw better property maintenance, and those who owned their homes were less likely to receive public assistance and be victims of crime and be more likely to be healthy, volunteer and vote. The children of homeowners were found to have higher levels of academic achievement and be at lower risk for teenage pregnancy.

Despite the apparent benefits to communities with high numbers of homeowners, the study found home ownership declining, with fewer people owning their homes in 2010 and 2011 than in 2005 after mostly steady increases dating back to 1940. The report also found that families with higher incomes tended to own more homes.

The belief in the positive effects of home ownership is the basis for federal and state governments (and some Illinois municipal governments) offering incentives for prospective first-time home-buyers.

There are several programs available to assist people with buying homes in Illinois, many through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IDHA). Here are some of the most general ones that many people can qualify for. There are more specific options with stricter eligibility limits.

State Programs:

Welcome Home Illinois: This program began in April through the Illinois Housing Development Authority as an assistance program for first-time Illinois homebuyers (or people who haven’t owned a home in the last three yeas) to come up with a down payment for their new homes, up to $7,500. They are also eligible for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with interest rates lower than the market rate. The buyers must contribute one percent of the purchase price or $1,000 (whichever is more) and live at the property. Veterans can also participate as part of Welcome Home Heroes and receive $10,000 in down-payment assistance.

Smart Move: Similarly to the Welcome Home Illinois program, first-time homebuyers are offered a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage through the IDHA and must contribute one percent or $1,000 to the purchase price of the home. Homebuyers get $6,000 to help with the down payment on a home.

Illinois Building Blocks: Up to 75 houses in 15 Illinois communities will be eligible through the end of 2014 for the Illinois Building Blocks program. Homebuyers (first time or not) receive $10,000 to help cover the down payment on a newly renovated home. They must contribute one percent of the purchase price or $1,000 to the purchase and live in the home. Eligible communities: Belleville, Berwyn, Blue Island, Champaign, Chicago Heights, Cicero, Crest Hill, Joliet, Lockport, Lynwood, Melrose Park, Maywood, Park Forest, Peoria, South Holland.

State Mortgage Revenue Bond loan: Every state offers bond loans in order to buy a house for the first time (or for the first time in three years), but many requirements vary by state and county. These are generally for prospective homebuyers who  make less than the area median income, according to First Home Advisor. Some counties also have maximum home value limits. The home loans are lent at interest rates less than the market value. Homeowners must occupy the homes they buy with the loans.

Federal programs:

Fannie Mae HomePath: Certain Fannie Mae-owned properties are marked as eligible in different areas. Potential first-time homebuyers must have a credit score of at least 660. Fannie Mae-approved lenders loan them the money to buy their homes similarly to a regular mortgage, but no mortgage insurance is required, greatly reducing the amount due on each mortgage payment.

Good Neighbor Next Door: Law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters and emergency responders who do not currently own a home are eligible to participate in a lottery through HUD to purchase certain foreclosed homes at half of the listed price. Prospective buyers can enroll in multiple lotteries to increase their chances of being chosen for a particular home. Buyers must live in the home for three years and can choose their own mortgage lender or apply for a Federal Housing Administration loan to pay for the house. Homeowners must be pre-approved for mortgages or demonstrate that they have cash to pay for a house before they participate in the lottery.

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