NEW ORLEANS, LA—Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced that the City of New Orleans’ $52.3 million “soft second” mortgage homebuyer assistance initiative’ Direct Homebuyer Assistance Program has now issued 500 commitments totaling $27,466,430.14. In total, 437 home purchases by first time homebuyers have been completed through the success of the City’s soft second mortgage program. The goal of this initiative’s Direct Homebuyer Assistance Program is to strategically promote homeownership opportunities for low and moderate income persons and families who are buying their first homes. The City’s Office of Community Development directs this program by providing hundreds of New Orleans families an opportunity to become first-time homebuyers.
“Today, the City’s soft second mortgage program continues to be an outstanding success in helping New Orleans residents buy their first home,” Mayor Landrieu said. “Supporting and encouraging homeownership is vital to strengthening our neighborhoods throughout our city. These Hurricane Katrina recovery dollars are making a real difference in reducing blight, stimulating our local economy, and in improving the lives of first-time homeowners city-wide.”
Funding for this initiative comes from federal Disaster Community Development Block Grant dollars provided by the State of Louisiana for housing recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The term “soft second” comes from the fact that the government is assisting potential homeowners through forgivable loans to purchase property and become first-time homebuyers. This subsidized loan bridges the affordability gap between the price of the home including closing costs and the maximum amount a homebuyer can borrow with a first mortgage loan. The homebuyer receives only the amount of soft second funding that is needed to close the affordability gap which will be determined by need and annual household income.
The “soft second” mortgage homebuyer initiative is a successful collaboration of the City, lenders, and homebuyer counseling agencies. The following are highlights to date:
29 New Orleans banks have participated in the City’s underwriting training.
Average processing time for City approval is currently 12 days including time for inspection and re-inspection of houses.
380 of the 500 commitments have been for households earning less than 80% of the area median income. The City is exceeding its goal of at least 50% for this income group.
Of the 500 commitments, 424 home purchases have closed and completed all reporting and documentation.
The average “soft second” mortgage is approximately $48,618.27 and the average closing cost assistance grant is approximately $5,691.07.
The average purchase price of houses purchased with this program is $143,567
The City has partnered with the Louisiana Homebuyer Education Collaborative to provide training for applicants. To be eligible for assistance, homebuyers must complete a pre-approved 12-hour homebuyer training course to prepare them to qualify for a mortgage and to become homeowners, sign a purchase contract for a home and obtain a commitment for a first mortgage. Purchasers of two-family homes must complete a landlord training class.
The Direct Homebuyer Assistance Program provides down payment and closing costs subsidies to eligible first- time homebuyers. The subsidies will bridge the affordability gap between the price of the home including closing costs and the maximum amount a homebuyer can borrow with a first mortgage loan. The homebuyer will receive only the amount of soft second funding that is needed to close the affordability gap.
The Affordable Home Development Program is designed to provide a steady inventory of houses that will be available for sale and be affordable to residents of low and moderate income. Through an open and competitive process, the City and the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) .made underdeveloped properties available and reserved soft second subsidies for the purchasers of homes completed under this initiative. The program encourages the rehabilitation of blighted, historic properties and infill housing. To date, 100 houses are under construction or being rehabilitated under this program. 15 houses have been completed and 6 have sold to soft second eligible households.
These programs spur mixed income development in areas across the City by assisting families with incomes up to 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to purchase single family homes in New Orleans. At least 50 percent of the program funds will be targeted to homebuyers at or below 80% AMI. Homebuyers with incomes at or below 80% of AMI will also be eligible for up to $10,000 down payment and closing cost assistance in both programs. Homebuyers with incomes between 81% and 90% of AMI will be eligible for up to $5,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance.
These programs will continue to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the Mayor’s place-based development strategy and will promote housing development and neighborhood stabilization to leverage the City’s current investments in infrastructure. To participate in the program, potential homebuyers can apply through a participating realtor, lender, or homebuyer training provider. Once the applicant applies and is approved for a first mortgage at a participating bank, the lender will then send documents to the city to review eligibility and to determine the amount of the subsidy. All reviews at the City and State level are completed before a house can move to closing. A list of lenders, realtors and housing counseling agencies currently participating in this program is attached to this release.
In order for participants to be eligible for any level of forgiveness of the subsidy, the homeowner must reside at the house for a minimum of 5 years. The homeowner must repay the “soft second” mortgage in full if the first mortgage goes into default or if the house is sold within the first 5 years. Twenty-five percent of the “soft second” loan is forgiven after year 5 and an additional 15% each year thereafter until the loan is zeroed out after 10 years.
“The success of the soft second initiative demonstrates the value of collaboration and planning,” said Brian Lawlor, Director of Housing Policy for the City of New Orleans. “We have worked with our partners in all sectors to develop strong programs that will leverage private resources and allow us to continue our efforts to rebuild our great city.”
For more information, please visit www.nola.gov/softseconds