Grants help first-time home buyers as wages lag behind housing prices

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ROCKFORD (WREX) – Jackie Pollack, a Rockford woman, said she thought she would never be able to afford to buy a home.

“I never thought I would buy home again after the divorce. I never thought it possible, but these grants helped out tremendously,” Pollack said.

As a single mother and recovering alcoholic, she took her life in a new direction, but worried she wouldn’t be able to save enough money for a down payment for a home. She said she started working hard to rebuild her credit score, and began speaking with a loan officer at Blackhawk Bank.

Pollack said she used two different grant programs to help her put a down payment on a home. She was able to get $7,500 from the Illinois Housing Development Authority 1st Home Illinois program, and $3,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago’s Downpayment Plus Program.

Jared Fewell from Blackhawk Bank said the 1st Home Illinois Program is fully forgiven over 5 years, and the Downpayment Plus Program gives buyers up to $6,000 if they qualify.

“And the only money I had to put in was about $2,000. So many people who are lower income as I am, could use their tax refund to purchase a home, it’s very possible,” she said.

Devin Alex, another first-time home buyer in Rockford, was looking to buy a home at just 21 years old, and he was able to take advantage of the grants as well.

“The IHDA grant gave me $7,500 towards closing costs. So that reduced closing costs and little bit of down payment help,” Alex said.

He said no matter the age, it’s possible to buy a home in Rockford, and he recommends talking to a realtor to get started.

One thing causing problems for home buyers across the nation is rising housing prices, and wages lagging.

“We’re see it really as a national trend that because housing prices are growing so rapidly, the wages just haven’t quite kept up,” CEO of Rockford Area Realtors Conor Brown said.

Fortunately Rockford has affordable real estate, with it being in the top 13 percent of most affordable housing markets in the nation, according to Rockford Area Realtors.

Fewell said it’s important that housing prices are in line with incomes in any market.

“So, in Rockford, since our incomes don’t increase substantially, or very fast in our market, it’s important that our housing prices stay in line with that so people can afford those houses. And these down payment assistance programs help people that can’t save money still buy a house,” Fewell said.

These programs helped people like Pollack get back to doing things she loves, like taking care of something that’s all her own.

“I missed being in my own yard, barefoot, working in the house, It’s just exciting and it feels good. I do work hard and it feels good to have something,” she said.

She said don’t be afraid to buy a home, and just work on getting credit scores and finances in line, because it is possible to buy a house with only a thousand dollars down payment.

Fewell said don’t wait to long to get started if you’re thinking about buying a home.

“Get a hold of a loan officer, talk to somebody local, because they will know what programs are available, but don’t be afraid to start we do a lot of counseling with buyers that maybe it takes a little while to get them on track, to get some credit issues fixed,” he said.

 

Lindsey Fafoglia

Lindsey Fafoglia

Morning News Anchor

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