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ONE notebook: New income limits good news for homebuyers

Posted on July 15, 2022

By Lisa Braxton

BOSTON --- I spent the first half of this year house hunting, hoping to find my dream home in one of the communities adjacent to Boston. But I soon realized that I couldn’t afford the asking prices. 

“Look further out,” a friend advised and told me how her daughter eventually found a home in a suburban town a 50-minute drive from Boston.

I widened my radius. But I was repeatedly outbid, or my offers had no chance of consideration because of cash buyers waiving inspection. In one instance, hostility from a seller’s broker let me know in not-so-subtle terms that I was being discriminated against because of race. I continued to look and widened my radius further.

I eventually purchased a home, much like my friend’s daughter, about a 45- to 50-minute drive from Boston. But because of the months it took to get an offer accepted, I’m paying a higher interest rate than I would have liked.

I know how tough it is these days to buy a home.

Prices across the country and here have soared. A recent study by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, finds that home price appreciation nationwide hit 20.6 percent in March 2022, marking the largest jump in three decades, and is continuing to rise.

In the Greater Boston region, prices are up 15.9 percent. Interest rates are also putting the squeeze on home shoppers. The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage nearly doubled since the start of last year.

In spite of these alarming trends, there has been one bit of good news for Massachusetts homebuyers as new income limits for state-supported programs like MHP's ONE Mortgage have risen in every county in Massachusetts.

ONE Mortgage's income limits are based on income limits that are released every year by the federal government to determine eligibility for programs like Section 8. New income limits released this spring  by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows increases in 99 percent of the nation's counties. 

This is great news for buyers hoping to be eligible for the ONE, the state's most affordable mortgage for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers. Borrowers whose total household income does not exceed 100% of area median income may qualify for ONE Mortgage. Borrowers below 80 percent area median income may be eligible for an MHP subsidy.

For a household of one, for example, the income limit in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, has been expanded to $98,150 for 2022, up from the $88,450 limit in 2021.  

Here are new income limits in other parts of the state:

  • In Worcester County a family of 4 can earn up to $99,850 in 2022 compared to $89,650 in 2021.
  • In Hampden County limits have increased to $75,300 for a family of 2. The limit was $71,000 last year.
  • A Barnstable family of 4 can earn $108,700 in 2022 compared to $87,500 in 2021.

“This is going to have a mitigating effect on this tough (homebuying) market.,” said MHP’s David Worsham, associate director of homeownership.  “We will be able to reach more homebuyers.”

In this turbulent time for homebuyers, the increased income limits for ONE Mortgage is welcome good news.

ONE+Boston continues to reach encouraging numbers

With ONE+Boston, MHP continues to make strides with the City of Boston to increase homeownership in the city.  Through May 31, 2022 116 ONE+Boston loans were closed in FY22, bringing the total to 189 since the program’s inception.  Eastern Bank is the newest lender to join the program. 

In May, a change to the program’s eligibility criteria was instituted.  Going forward Boston residency will include those who not only currently reside in Boston, but those who work in Boston or were recently displaced.  The intent is to create more opportunities for first-time homebuyers to use the program. Nearly three quarters of ONE+Boston buyers are non-white, and 39 percent are Black. 

Statewide ONE Mortgage numbers

Statewide, MHP's ONE Mortgage continues to be an effective option for first-time buyers of color. Of the 670 ONE Mortgage loans made in Massachusetts so far in FY22, 65 percent went to people of color. The picture is even better in cities as 72 percent of ONE loans in Boston went to people of color. In gateway cities, the percentage of loans to people of color is 84 percent.

Though mortgage rates are ticking up, ONE Mortgage borrowers always receive a discounted interest rate for their 30-year fixed rate mortgage. To figure out what you can afford, check out the ONE Mortgage calculator.


Mass HAF helps homeowners avoid foreclosure

In addition to administering ONE Mortgage, 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.

Since the program was launched in Dec. 2021, Mass HAF has distributed nearly $20 million in assistance to 1,009 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, 203 have agreed to participate and 197 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.

(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).

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