To buy a house? New state program offering up to $50,000 in assistance

Discouraged by rising interest rates and soaring house prices? A new state program is offering up to $50,000 to help first-time homebuyers with down payments and closing costs, but only for a limited time.

New “It’s time to ownThe program just launched on Monday. It is already generating a lot of interest.

Norwalk’s Robert Madden knows how difficult it is. He just closed his first home – and paid way above the asking price.

“Put about seven, eight offers on houses, and I finally got one,” he said.

“Time To Own” is open to first-time buyers and those who have not owned a home in the past three years. You must already live in Connecticut.

“This will create sustainable home ownership for hundreds of Connecticut residents,” said Nandini Natarajan, CEO of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

The new program pays:

• Up to 20% down payment

• Up to 5% of closing costs

You can borrow up to $50,000 in the most expensive real estate markets and $25,000 everywhere else, all without interest.

Where does your house fall? Addresses located in “Very High” or “High” Opportunity Zones are eligible for the the most help:

The longer you stay in your home, the less you have to repay. After 10 years, the loan is completely cancelled.

Connecticut Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquero-Bruno said she wants to help families looking to settle, not real estate speculators.

“I don’t want someone buying a house and flipping it the next day and taking $25,000,” she said.

Not everyone is entitled to help. Participants must use a first-time home loan from CHFA. A dozen lenders across the state offer them, but loans are limited to homes under $578,000 in Fairfield County, or under $350,000 elsewhere. CHFA loans have the added benefit of lower interest rates.

“Time To Own” also has income restrictions:

• Fairfield County: $135,900/year

• New Haven County: $99,200/year

• County of Litchfield: $112,600/year

Income limits are the same for single buyers and families, which can potentially exclude couples buying a home together. To help qualify, Natarajan suggests that only one spouse apply for a mortgage.

But could “Time To Own” really turn against you? It’s already nearly impossible to find a home, and more buyers could make it even harder. But real estate agent Kim Tromba thinks the program could actually put more homes on the market.

“It will be interesting to see,” she said. “Hopefully this will encourage more people to sign up, knowing that shoppers are buying with cash.”

Rob Madden arrived too late to benefit from the aid, but he is happy that the money is there for others.

“It would have definitely helped and hopefully it will help a lot more families who might be paying those interest rates to get into homes,” he said.

If you want to apply, hurry. The state has only allocated $20 million for a pilot program, and lenders will stop taking applications once the money runs out.

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