First-time buyer? Check out ONE Mortgage

ONE Mortgage: Supporting a stronger Commonwealth


Prosperous families. Stable and secure neighborhoods. Sound, private-sector loans. That’s what ONE Mortgage delivers.

Expanding access to safe, secure fixed-rate mortgages has many public benefits. By reaching homebuyers with a median household income of $56,000, ONE Mortgage makes it possible for thousands of working families to put down roots in the Commonwealth. In contrast, creditworthy buyers who use other mortgage products often pay disproportionately high rates and mortgage insurance fees relative to the risk of default. The result is reduced buying power and a higher monthly debt burden that may increase the risk of delinquency and foreclosure while stifling the creation of household wealth.

Banks have an obligation under the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to reinvest in the communities where they do business. Yet despite this longstanding legal and moral obligation, banks in most parts of the country have not done nearly enough to extend mortgage credit on reasonable terms to low- and moderate-income borrowers within their service areas.

Massachusetts has been the major exception. Through the ONE Mortgage and SoftSecond programs, banks have put over $4.5 billion in private sector capital into Massachusetts neighborhoods at lower rates and on more responsive credit terms than would otherwise be available. Ongoing bank commitments to the program exceed another $500 million, which includes not just major banks like Citizens but also the state’s leading regional and community banks and local credit unions.

Most ONE Mortgage and SoftSecond loans have also been made in neighborhoods that were historically underserved by conventional credit. More than a third of all loans have originated in the Commonwealth’s smaller gateway cities and another third in the City of Boston.

Despite decades of efforts to address mortgage lending discrimination, Massachusetts still has the 48th lowest homeownership rate for black households among the 50 states. Homeownership rates for households of color are 40 percent higher in the nation as a whole than in Massachusetts. ONE Mortgage is the only state housing program that was created to address this gap. Over half of all ONE and SoftSecond borrowers are households of color.

Several changes and enhancements have been made to ONE mortgage over the years in order to increase opportunities for first-time homebuyers of color. During and after the 2008 recession, tighter credit score requirements more heavily impacted buyers of color. Through an analysis of 5,000 existing loans, MHP found that lowering credit score requirements presented only a nominal level of increased risk. Based on these results, and a desire to reach more first-time homebuyers of color, MHP lowered the ONE Mortgage credit score requirement by 20 points in 2018. In 2020, MHP partnered with Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) and the City of Boston to offer ONE+Boston, an expansion of the original program that combines city funds with ONE’s affordable features to increase buying power for income-eligible, first-time Boston homebuyers. Then, in 2022 MHP increased the amount of public funding available for each loan, meaning that homebuyers under 80% area median income could benefit from deeper levels of interest subsidy, thereby increasing their purchasing power in an increasingly expensive homebuying market.

For more information about how you can bring ONE Mortgage to your community, or to your lending institution, contact MHP Sr. Business Development Manager Susanne Cameron at or 617-330-9955.

“When you participate in ONE Mortgage, you are changing lives and communities for the better.”

Esther Maycock-Thorne
Board member, Past President
Massachusetts Affordable
Housing Alliance


In 1989, a Federal Reserve Bank study found racial discrimination in mortgage lending in the Boston area. To address this inequity, in 1990 the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) in collaboration with the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, the City of Boston, and the Commonwealth, developed the SoftSecond Loan Program, which would later become ONE Mortgage. Though the program was first offered in Boston, it soon expanded statewide in 1992. This first-of-its-kind program created homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income homebuyers in Massachusetts.

In 2013 the SoftSecond Loan Program became ONE Mortgage, and to this day it breaks down barriers that prevent creditworthy families from buying a home: inadequate consumer education, high interest rates and fees, excessive down payment requirements, compulsory mortgage insurance, and a bias against 2- and 3-family properties.

The key features of ONE Mortgage include:

  • 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages that are held in portfolio by a Massachusetts bank or credit union.
  • Three percent minimum down payment (five percent for three-family properties)
  • 0.3 percent (30 basis point) interest rate discount.
  • Reduced monthly payments for qualified borrowers during the early years of homeownership through a state-funded interest rate buy-down.
  • No limit on home appreciation, with a portion of any net gains recaptured to repay the interest rate buy-down (if any) when borrowers sell or refinance.
  • No cost for private mortgage insurance because participating lenders retain credit risk and the program includes a cash-funded loan loss reserve.
  • Hundreds of dollars a month in combined savings compared to conventional mortgages.

In addition, ONE Mortgage has the most rigorous homebuyer education standards in the industry. All homebuyers must complete an approved pre-purchase education class program prior to closing. Post-purchase support is also provided through a statewide network. This combination of underwriting standards, local lenders that retain skin in the game, and strong homebuyer education has resulted in solid loan performance and a foreclosure rate that is less than the rate for “prime” loans eligible for sale to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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