Posted on July 13, 2023
BOSTON --- The Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) has honored MHP with the Program Leadership Award for its part in administering the MassDreams grant program for first-time homebuyers. CHAPA, a nonprofit housing advocacy group, presented the award to MHP and co-recipient, MassHousing, at its 56th annual dinner held on June 29, 2023, at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
MassDREAMS (Delivering Real Equity and Mortgage Stability) is a federally funded grant program designed to provide eligible first-time homebuyers who currently reside in a community disproportionately impacted by the COVID pandemic with up to $50,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance for the purchase of a primary residence anywhere in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The MassDREAMS grant must be paired with an MHP ONE Mortgage or MassHousing first mortgage product.
MHP Director of Homeownership Elliot Schmiedl accepted the award on behalf of the team.
“Looking back, it was a lot of time and effort to design, implement and operate this program,” he said. “I want to thank the team at MHP for their hard work and dedication. I also want to thank our colleagues from MassHousing. It was a team effort right from the start.”
Funded with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars appropriated by the state legislature, the MassDREAMS program launched in late 2022. It has attracted strong interest from homebuyers since then.
As of June 2023, the program had funded 290 grants to households. Seventy-six percent are BIPOC households and 61 percent are below 80 percent AMI.
The COVID-19 pandemic heightened housing disparities in MA that already existed. Communities and neighborhoods that are always disproportionately strained by economic stresses felt the impact of COVID the most. And fewer homes were being listed for sale in an already tight environment, driving purchase prices even higher than the already high housing costs that Massachusetts is known for. MassDREAMS was conceived as a program to directly target both disparities: homebuyers would be eligible as low- to moderate-income residents of one of these disproportionately impacted communities, and they’d be granted assistance according to a percentage of that escalating purchase price.
Though the program was designed at a time to address these impacts that were already felt, it was launched just as another economic consequence was driving interest rates upward at an unprecedented speed. As this unfolded, a staggering number of homebuyers were priced out of the market every week, and homeowners largely stopped selling their homes for fear of being unable to afford the mortgage of their next one. Instead of bringing more homebuyers back into the market, MassDREAMS ended up buffering how many and how quickly those already looking were priced out of it.
“The timing was great,” Schmiedl continued in his remarks, “launching right when interest rates were trending upward, and the help was immediate. Together our two organizations have helped so many households realize their dream of homeownership during a time when many of them thought it impossible.”
MHP and MassHousing partnered with CHAPA to build a pre-eligibility screening tool and partnered with a minority and women-owned advertising agency and nonprofit homebuyer education organizations to spread awareness about the program.
“This program involves systems, processes, and pressures that had to be built from scratch, learned, and adapted as needed,” said MHP Associate Director of Homeownership David Worsham. “Our team has met these challenges head on, rising to meet the needs of our homebuyers. Not only do we continue to push for better turnaround times and service for all, but we’ve consistently prioritized those buyers who need help in the moment to meet their deadlines. I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and I relish the opportunity for us to do more.”
In addition to those that have been funded, MHP conditionally approved another 199 households for assistance; they can now work with their mortgage lender to prequalify for a ONE Mortgage loan inclusive of MassDREAMS down payment and closing cost assistance.
Both agencies intend to operate MassDREAMS or similar down payment assistance programs well into the future.
More than 1,000 housing advocates from across the state attended the CHAPA dinner, in which Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll delivered the keynote address. Other awards were given in the categories of Outstanding Impact, Community Engagement and Changemaker. The dinner is held to celebrate milestones and affordable housing champions.
A statement from CHAPA in the awards program booklet states, “From customer service and lender training to processing and closing, both the MHP and MassHousing teams have done a remarkable job to ensure more Massachusetts residents have a safe, healthy and affordable place to call home.”
For more information contact MHP Communication Manager at Lbraxton@mhp.net or at (857) 301-1526.