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Prospective homebuyers will soon be able to apply for down payment assistance grants from a pair of Springfield organizations.
On Nov. 20, the Springfield City Council selected Restore SGF and the Springfield Community Land Trust as recipients of a total of $564,703 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for affordable housing home ownership programs. The council also approved an agreement between the organizations and the city.
For the Springfield Community Land Trust, homebuyer assistance programs are a part of what it already does. For Restore SGF on the other hand, it affords the young nonprofit the opportunity to launch only its second grant program. In September, Restore SGF debuted its Block Challenge Grant Program, which provides funding to homeowners to help revitalize neighborhoods in Springfield.
“It fits hand in glove with our mission of homeownership,” Restore SGF co-founder and board chair Richard Ollis told the Springfield Daily Citizen prior to the Nov. 20 meeting. “And so, although it was not an existing program, it was certainly something that is square in our wheelhouse.”
How the programs will work
Restore SGF and the Springfield Community Land Trust were the only two organizations to submit proposals for funding, and were awarded $466,000 and $98,703, respectively.
Though each organization will have some discretion on how and where to market the programs within the city, their agreements with the city carry some requirements.
The programs will be available for low income to middle income homebuyers, with the maximum income limit of 150 percent of the Springfield area median income, which the city’s Grants Administrator Bob Jones equated to $96,000 per year for a family of three. Assuming all homebuyers participating in either program use the maximum amount of $9,000 for down payments, the funding will help approximately 62 buyers purchase homes by the end of 2026.
The $9,000 grant can apply to homes priced up to $250,000, and requires the home to be the buyer’s primary residence for a minimum of five years.
“As we have been seeing interest rates rise and appraisals go up, housing is not quite as affordable as it was a few years ago, and so I see this as a great tool, this down payment assistance, to help some of our folks get into homeownership,” Springfield Community Land Trust Director LeeAnn Camey said at the Nov. 6 City Council meeting, when the program agreement was introduced.
At that meeting, Restore SGF Interim Executive Director Dana Elwell pointed out Springfield’s comparatively low homeownership rate of about 42 percent, and noted the new program will provide homebuyers a chance to build their wealth and net worth.
Zone 1 Councilmember Monica Horton was excited about the potential of the homeownership programs, and implied that a recently-passed 3-percent tax on recreational marijuana sales in Springfield could be used to help Springfield reach 50-percent homeownership by 2030.
“It might be a lofty goal, but I think that we have some funding structures in place to kind of really make some traction in that direction,” Horton said.
Restore SGF hopes for more money
A down payment assistance program has been in the works at Restore SGF for some time, but comes to life with the ARPA funding.
“For lack of a better word, this had always been on our radar, but we had never kind of put anything together until this money became available,” Ollis said.
Though it will likely take through the end of 2023 to launch the new program, Elwell told the Springfield Daily Citizen he plans to reach out to Springfield real estate organizations to begin marketing the grant.
The grant will be available in the five neighborhoods previously identified for the Block Challenge Grant Program: Woodland Heights, Grant Beach, Fassnight, Doling Park (east of Robberson Avenue) and Meador Park (east of National Avenue).
Though nothing is confirmed, Ollis hopes that potential partners provide additional matching funds for Restore SGF to increase the homeownership grant from $9,000 to as much as $15,000 per buyer.
“We’re still in the in the stages of determining if there might be area businesses or foundations that may be interested in matching some of this money and obviously leveraging the money that we hopefully we get from ARPA to to promote homeownership and in these five neighborhoods,” Ollis said.