June 11, 2018
U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of Portsmouth recognize June as National Homeownership Month. In order to help first-time homebuyers overcome financial barriers to homeownership in the City, the Portsmouth HomeTown Program provides financial assistance to qualified households who, without this support, could not purchase a home. The program is administered by the Portsmouth Community Development Department and provides up to $65,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time homebuyers earning up to 120% of median family income as determined by HUD. The City works closely in partnership with the local Citizens Bank branch, which underwrites mortgages for qualified HomeTown-eligible borrowers.
This program has been very successful with over $2.1 million provided in assistance since the program’s inception in 1989. In the last 18 months, the program has made eight loans totaling $420,000 to first time homebuyers purchasing single-family homes in Portsmouth.
“This program is extremely effective in finding housing solutions for families earning median incomes,” said City Manager John Bohenko. “Low or no interest loans fill the gap between what families can afford and current home sale prices. The City is fortunate to have this resource through the Portsmouth Housing Endowment Fund.”
“Down payments continue to be a barrier to homeownership for many, so programs that assist income-eligible borrowers are critical in an increasingly high cost housing market,” stated Mary Carlson the Citizens Bank Senior Loan Officer, who works with HomeTown participants. “Portsmouth’s program allows people who would not otherwise be able to achieve homeownership to purchase homes in the city, and we’re proud to partner with the HomeTown Program to help residents reach their potential and purchase a home where they can build their lives as part of this vibrant community.”
The HomeTown program is funded through the Portsmouth Housing Endowment Fund, which was initially capitalized through a private endowment. Since its inception in 1989, the interest earned through the endowment fund’s investments has been used to finance down payment and closing costs for first-time homebuyers. Assistance through the HomeTown program is in the form of loans, which are repaid by borrowers through installment payments as well as lump sum payments at the time families sell their homes. This revolving loan fund approach ensures that funds repaid by borrowers can then be loaned again to new first-time homebuyers.
In order to be eligible for assistance through the HomeTown Program, an individual or family must have lived in Portsmouth for at least two years or have previously resided in Portsmouth for ten years and currently live within a thirty mile radius of the City; earn up to 120% of median family income (for example, up to $95,232 for a two-person household, or $107,136 for a three-person household); and be a first-time homebuyer. Full-time City of Portsmouth employees who meet income requirements are also eligible to apply. All successful applicants must attend a homebuyer education course.
Anyone who would like more information about the HomeTown program may visit the City’s website, cityofportsmouth.com/community or contact Elise Annunziata, Community Development Coordinator, at (603) 610-7281.