BY CITY COUNCILMEMBER MARK TREYGER
Homeownership has long been a lynchpin of the “American Dream,” but the dream is becoming just that for many families as a result of rising real estate prices.
According to a recent report released by the Furman Center, New York City’s homeownership rate (31 percent) is less than half that of the United States (63 percent). The study also found that the median sales price of all homes sold in New York City during 2014 — $575,000 — was affordable only to high-income households.
Home ownership is a pathway to the middle class, and it must be government that takes the lead in making the dream of homeownership a reality again for working families. That begins with providing better options for down payment assistance.
Affording a down payment on a home is one of the primary hurdles middle class families must overcome to purchase a home. While middle-income families may be able to afford monthly mortgage payments, the inability to make a down payment is pricing them out of the housing market.
HomeFirst, a down payment assistance program currently provided by the New York City Housing Preservation, offers hopeful homeowners the lesser of a $15,000 grant, or six percent of the home’s purchase price. Yet many middle-income families do not qualify for the down payment assistance programs currently offered in New York City, as only families making less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or about $62,000 for a family of three, are eligible for the program.
San Francisco currently offers the country’s highest average down payment assistance figure ($53,000), and qualified applicants there are eligible for a loan of up to $200,000. If we could raise our down payment assistance numbers even a little, we would be giving hard-working families a chance to compete.
Gentrification and the rising cost of living in many of our neighborhoods are pushing working class families out of their homes. The middle class is shrinking. Down payment assistance gives people a chance to stake their claim in their neighborhood.
Home ownership encourages people to invest in their neighborhoods, allows them to build equity, and creates stability for them and their children.
Expanding down payment assistance is about helping the backbone of our great city. Our police and our firefighters deserve a chance at owning homes, and so do our teachers, transit workers and nurses. They make our city go, and they deserve to own a piece of the pie, too.
Councilmember Mark Treyger represents the 47th Council District.