(Photo via Wells Fargo)

Wells Fargo NeighborhoodLIFT Program to Create Pathways to Bay Area Homeownership

Originally published on newsroom.wf.com.

As the Bay Area grapples with COVID-19 economic recovery, $9.5 million effort helps 350 low- and moderate-income residents

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– In the Bay Area, more than four in 10 renters pay over 30% of their income on housing. Additionally, nearly 25% of renters are severely cost-burdened, paying over half of their income on housing, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Renters, including people of color, are disadvantaged in being able to build equity and wealth as the Bay Area grapples with recovery from the economic fallout and housing instability caused by COVID-19.

To address this ongoing issue, Wells Fargo, NeighborWorks® America, and its network member Community Housing Development Corporation today announced the NeighborhoodLIFT® program, a $9.5 million collaboration funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation to boost homeownership in the Bay Area for low- and moderate-income individuals. The NeighborhoodLIFT program will offer $25,000 in down payment assistance to 359 eligible homebuyers.

“The economic fallout caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated the housing affordability challenges in the Bay Area as far too many families struggle paying too much of their income on rent,” said Max Seetho, Wells Fargo Bank region president for the Silicon Valley. “While affordability and inventory continue to pose challenges, this initiative will make a positive impact on the lives of more low- and moderate-income families by putting them on a pathway to housing stability, wellness, and wealth accumulation through successful homeownership.”

Because of COVID-19, the NeighborhoodLIFT program for six Bay Area counties is redesigned to virtually assist low- and moderate-income homebuyers purchase a home in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano counties through the collaboration with the nonprofits.

“We have much more work to do to broaden economic opportunity in the Bay Area and it’s heartening to see Wells Fargo launch an initiative that embraces homeownership as the surest path to financial resilience for our families struggling on modest incomes,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Today’s expansion of the NeighborhoodLIFT program is Wells Fargo’s 80th LIFT programs launch and follows similar Bay Area initiatives in 2012 and 2017 that assisted 536 homeowners with down payment assistance with a combined $16 million investment by Wells Fargo. The 2020 expansion of the initiative for six Bay Area counties includes $525,000 for 700 people to receive NeighborhoodLIFT Home Ownership Counseling so they can learn how to navigate the home purchasing process and determine how to best budget for ongoing homeownership costs.

“This important collaboration will assist more than 350 homeowners,” said Lisa Hasegawa, regional vice president, Western region with NeighborWorks America. “The required homebuyer education provided by trained professionals better prepares NeighborhoodLIFT homebuyers to achieve their goal of sustainable homeownership.”

Montie Cross, a retired technology company worker purchased her family’s Fairfield, Calif. home with NeighborhoodLIFT down payment assistance. “This is my first-time owning a home so working with the credit counselor to prepare for the steps to qualify for a mortgage made everything go smooth,” said Cross. “This is my house now and I don’t need to rent any longer.”

Eligible homebuyers can earn 80% or less of family median income in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano counties, as determined by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. Participating homebuyers can obtain mortgage financing from any participating NeighborhoodLIFT lender, and Community Housing Development Corporation will determine eligibility and administer the down payment assistance.

Interested individuals should visit www.wellsfargo.com/lift for additional information and the steps to apply for down payment assistance. Homebuyers can view a list of participating lenders and sign-up for homebuyer education with a HUD-approved provider at www.communityhdc.org/lift. Applications for down payment assistance may be submitted beginning Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.

“We are ready to help more Bay Area families achieve successful and sustainable homeownership,” said Don Gilmore, executive director of Community Housing Development Corporation. “NeighborhoodLIFT is a unique program in how it changes lives by moving away from the uncertainty of renting by making homeownership more affordable, achievable, and sustainable.”

The NeighborhoodLIFT program also aligns with the goals and principles of the Roundtable for Economic Access and Change (Project REACh) founded by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The Project REACh coalition focuses on removing barriers to financial inclusion and providing greater access to credit and capital. Wells Fargo is involved in all four Project REACh work streams, including the Alternative Credit Score Utility; Small Business Opportunity; Revitalizing Minority Depository Institutions Working Groups; and is leading the Homeownership Working Group, which seeks to expand and preserve affordable homeownership among minority populations. The NeighborhoodLIFT program addresses several of the challenges facing potential homeowners, including engaging in homebuyer education, savings, and wealth creation. Additional information can be found at www.occ.gov/REACh.

Since 2012, Wells Fargo has invested $511 million in NeighborhoodLIFT and other LIFT programs across more than 1,000 communities to help 24,600 Americans become homeowners, purchasing more than $4.86 billion in real estate on an aggregate basis as of June 2020. The program is part of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s commitment to donate $1 billion in support of housing affordability solutions across the U.S. Additionally, since 2016, Wells Fargo has financed 34 affordable housing developments in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano counties. The $1.8 billion in debt and equity financing has supported the construction or renovation of 4,045 rental homes for families, seniors, and people at risk of being homeless due to increased housing costs in the Bay Area.

The Wells Fargo Foundation has also distributed $175 million in donations across the U.S. in 2020, in response to the economic fallout caused by COVID-19. These resources have helped provide support for food, small businesses, and housing needs. Grants focused on keeping people housed include funding for national nonprofit housing intermediaries, local nonprofits, and legal assistance organizations, including Bay Area Legal Aid, that drive advocacy efforts and work with people to mitigate rental evictions.

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