Learn more about MassDREAMS, a new grant program for eligible first-time homebuyers. MORE

First-time buyer? Check out ONE Mortgage

Homeownership notes: Fundraiser helps homebuyers; report says Blacks, Latinx lack credit access

Posted on September 16, 2022

By Lisa Braxton

WELLFLEET --- Residents of Wellfleet know how to raise the roof. Not only do they thrust their palms high up in the air to the beat of a tune their hometown band is playing, but also contribute to putting roofs over the heads of homebuyers and people who need affordable apartments.

Both examples of roof raising were in evidence at the recent 2nd Annual Housing Angels Benefit Concert at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. Proceeds benefited the Wellfleet Affordable Housing Trust.

As music lovers purchased tickets and poured into the auditorium, they were handed a program with a rundown of the evening’s performers — which included vocalists, an accordionist, fiddlers and a mandolin player—and a tri-fold brochure describing the town’s housing challenges. In the trifold, a request is made for “angels,” volunteers who help with educational outreach and fundraising and major donors who can donate land, property, or significant funds.

According to Elaine McIlroy, chair of the Wellfleet Housing Authority and vice-chair of the Affordable Housing Trust, long before the Covid pandemic, Wellfleet was grappling with a housing shortage. Now, with the rapid escalation in house prices, the town is in crisis. The pandemic has made a competitive real estate market out of reach for many people who live and work in Wellfleet. Businesses and services are struggling to find staff. The town is losing young adults and families at an alarming rate.

The situation is similar throughout the Cape. A 2017 Cape Cod Commission study found that the Cape had an affordable housing gap of more than 26,000 units — thousands of low- and moderate-income workers are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. More than 3,000 units were converted from year-round to seasonal from 2010 to 2015. According to the last census, Barnstable, where Wellfleet is located, lost about 15,000 residents ages 25 to 44, nearly 27 percent.

We are determined to act boldly,” McIlroy said. “We have received tremendous assistance over the years from MHP and one of our housing heroes, MHP's (Director of Community Assistance) Laura Shufelt.  Working with Habitat and other developers has taught us to keep trying, never give up.”

MHP honored Wellfleet with Housing Hero award for its collaborative efforts and creativity in increasing affordable housing opportunities. The town was recognized at MHP’s 15th Housing Institute in June.

McIlroy stated that money raised from the Housing Angels Benefit Concert goes toward the Wellfleet Housing Buy Down Program and the down payment and closing cost assistance program. The Buy Down Program provides up to $175,000 in subsidy for low-to-moderate income homebuyers toward purchasing a Wellfleet home, lowering the price and making the home affordable. Because the houses are deed restricted, they incrementally increase the town’s affordable housing stock. The down payment and closing assistance program for first-time homebuyers provides a zero payment loan of up to $20,000 for qualitied moderate-income applicants.

“I think for us all these efforts are finally making an impact and are finally bringing us closer to a community where we can all have a place to call home,” she said. “It should have happened years ago, as the challenges today are greater than ever, but we cannot give up.”

Report: Homeownership dreams still deferred for many

Black and Latinx Massachusetts residents continue to struggle to realize the dream of homeownership and the benefits of building generational wealth that go along with it, according to a recently released report. The Massachusetts Community & Banking Council (MCBC) 2022 report on mortgage lending trends states that lack of access to credit continues to be a driving force that keeps the level of wealth among Black and Latinx people low compared to the white population.

Report highlights

  • Black loan applicants are denied at 3.15 times the rate of white applicants in Boston, and 2.18 times the rate in the state overall.
  • Latinx applicants are denied at 3.01 times the rate of white applicants for all loans in the city, and 1.99 times the rate of applicants statewide.
  • Lower rates between Black, Latinx and Asian applicants at the state level overall is due to fewer white applicants for FHA loans.
  • Denial rates for Asian, Black and Latinx and white people were decreasing in the decade after the 2008 financial crisis, but between 2019 and 2020 rates for Black and Latinx applicants rose slightly, while rates for Asian and white applicants remained relatively flat.
  • The most common reason provided for loan denial is a high debt to income ratio.

The Mortgage Lending Trends in Massachusetts report examines mortgage lending and denials by income level, race/ethnicity, and geography as well as by lender. The 27th annual report was prepared for MCBC by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute.

Assistance cap on Mass HAF program

If a homeowner applies for the Mass HAF program, as of Sept. 1, 2022, assistance will be capped at $50,000 per household. MHP's homeownership team is also the day-to-day administrator of the state's Homeowner Assistance Fund (Mass HAF), a federally-funded program that helps homebuyers who are three or more months behind on their mortgages. If a homeowner owes more than $50,000, they are encouraged to still apply. The most important thing is to start an application. The homeowner's servicer (whoever they pay their mortgage to) may be able to help with a plan to help the homeowner get caught up on the remaining amount owed.

Mass HAF is available to homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments by at least three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of HAF is to prevent foreclosures and displacements of eligible homeowners.

A key to the program is signing up and training mortgage servicers because these companies apply for assistance on behalf of homeowners. So far, 215 have agreed to participate and 209 have been fully onboarded.

If you are a homeowner who needs mortgage assistance, please visit the Mass HAF web site at massmortgagehelp.org. If you are servicer, please go to MHP's mortgage servicer home page.

Since the program was launched in Dec. 2021, Mass HAF has distributed more than $30 million in assistance to close to 1,700 homeowners. 

ONE Mortgage volume

 FY22 closed with 720 loan closings totaling $237,982,138 in private mortgage financing to first-time buyers. Citizens Bank closed 229 loans totaling $76,311,890. Additionally, within the City of Boston, thanks to ONE+Boston, we’re saw our strongest fiscal-year volume in years, with 186 loans closed totaling $63,449,740. So far FY23 has seen 83 loan closings totaling $26,969,041.

(This notebook was compiled by MHP Communications Coordinator Lisa Braxton. MHP Program Manager Isabel Cruz contributed to this report. Questions or comments? Email lbraxton@mhp.net).