Caris and Jon Li were doubtful when they first heard about the home buyer assistance program NeighborhoodLIFT.
“It seemed too good to be true,” Caris Li said.
But after receiving $15,000 in 2012 to help pay for their duplex in St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway neighborhood, the couple is encouraging others to give it a try.
On Tuesday morning, St. Paul and Minneapolis mayors Chris Coleman and Betsy Hodges, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and nonprofits, packed onto the Li’s front porch to announce that 450 prospective homeowners in the Twin Cities could get up to $7,500 in matching down-payment assistance.
That may seem like relatively few people in a metropolitan area of 3 million, Coleman said, but each grant can make a big difference to families and their new neighborhoods.
“One of the most important assets a person could have is their home, and the one way that they can pass on wealth to their children and beyond is through homeownership,” Coleman said. “So, on so many different levels, these programs are incredibly important.”
NeighborhoodLIFT and other programs can help close the ownership gap that exists between households of color and white households, said Mary Tingerthal, commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
About 76 percent of white households own their home, while about 40 percent of households of color are homeowners, she said.
“[Homeownership] really is a beginning of putting down roots and being part of strong neighborhoods,” Tingerthal said, but for many families, down payment and closing costs prevent them from owning a home.
People who are interested in the grants must stop by a NeighborhoodLIFT event June 10-11 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, at 1300 Nicollet Mall. Officials there will determine whether applicants are eligible.
Once applicants are approved, they have 60 days to finalize a contract to purchase a home.
Participants also must complete an eight-hour home buyer education class to qualify. They must have lived in their home for three years to receive the full grant amount.