MINNEAPOLIS -- Wells Fargo is bringing its down payment assistance plan, known as Neighborhood LIFT, to Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The $9 million program features $15,000 forgivable grants to help with down payments for people buying homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
"It is designed to help a multitude of families reach their dream of home ownership," Wells Fargo regional president Dave Kvamme told reporters, as he stood on the front porch of a renovated home that will soon go on the market in North Minneapolis.
Kvamme said prospective buyers don't have to use Wells Fargo as their mortgage lender, but must apply for the grant through the Wells Fargo event. It is limited to homes inside the St. Paul and Minneapolis city limits.
"These are great cities that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. We really wanted to invest in these cities because they're the types of communities that we want to help revitalize across America."
Wells Fargo will take applications at a two-day event at the Minneapolis Convention Center Sept. 7th and 8th, where housing counselors will help home buyers determine their eligibility.
The income limit is 120 percent of median income in Minnesota. That limit ranges from $70,000 for a single person to $116,000 for a family of six. You don't have to be a first-time home buyer, but you can't qualify for the program if you already own one home.
The grants can be layered on top of other down payment assistance programs that buyers are otherwise qualified to use. The amount of the down payment required varies based on the price of the home, but low mortgage rates make it a good time to buy a house.
Wells Fargo is partnering with community housing assistance organizations that are affiliated with NeighborWorks America, in hopes of maximizing the impact on repairing neighborhoods through home ownership.
"A $15,000 forgivable grant is a truly unprecedented product we can offer people," Jason Peterson of Community Neighborhood Housing Services of St. Paul told KARE.
"It will be a great opportunity for those to really enter the housing market, and with the counseling services we provide, they'll be educated and be able to sustain this home ownership,"
This program isn't just about helping people come up with the down payment to get into a home. It's also about filling gaps in neighborhoods, where the foreclosure crisis has left many homes vacant or occupied by renters.
"Before the housing crisis North Minneapolis was about 50-50, 50 percent owner occupied," Glennis Ter Wisscha of Neighborhood Housing Services of Minneapolis, told KARE.
"After the housing crisis, it's now about 30-70, with only 30 percent of single family homes owner occupied in this part of the city."
That's why many down payment assistance and home renovation grant programs, including Neighborhood LIFT, require people to live in their homes at least five years.
"The parents become more invested in the public school system. They become more invested in the properties that are around them, because they're living in their investment," Ter Wisscha explained.
Vincent Cotten, who is renting a house across the street from where Wells Fargo staged the press conference, said he'd definitely be interested in applying for one of the down payment grants.
"The reality of people wanting to be stable and knowing where home is, and where they can call home is not necessarily in them having a place, but in owning a place," Cotten said.
Cotten, a minister and carpenter and father of six, is hoping to buy the house he's living in from his landlord. He said he had planned to buy it on a contract-for-deed basis, because he couldn't raise the down payment he'd need.
The grant program, however, would allow him to reconsider that and perhaps pursue a traditional mortgage instead.
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