New state programs aimed at assisting homebuyers

Chronicle Media

IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust

The Pritzker administration announced on Dec. 1 the creation of two new programs designed to help bring additional assistance to working class families and underrepresented communities of color across the state.

Offered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), the SmartBuy and Opening Doors programs were designed to aid communities of color, which have historically endured many barriers in their path toward homeownership.

These programs will help contribute the financial assistance necessary to begin addressing pitfalls that traditionally have created financial barriers, with a goal to provide equal opportunities for all Illinois residents. Both programs launched Dec. 1 and will continue until funding is exhausted.

“One of the biggest obstacles to buying a home is saving enough money for a down payment, which is increasingly difficult when saddled with student loan debt and taking care of a family,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “The Smart Buy and Opening Doors mortgage assistance programs will help bridge the financial gap that has historically prevented certain communities from owning a home. While we cannot undo past harms that resulted in barriers to home ownership for too many Illinoisans, my administration is committed to providing assistance that will allow more people to reach this goal.”

While many people are taking advantage of low interest rates and purchasing a home, multiple studies have shown that access to homeownership continues to be out of reach for specific populations.

A  June 2020 story by WBEZ and City Bureau found that for every $1 banks loaned in Chicago’s white neighborhoods, they invested just 12 cents in the city’s Black neighborhoods and 13 cents in Latino areas.

In addition, Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs reported that 17 percent of Illinois residents —more than 2 million people — carry student loan debt, the average value of which is $29,855.

A 2018 study by the University of Illinois found that outstanding student loan debt negatively impacts wealth accumulation for all borrowers (regardless of their race), but the impact is especially significant for Black and Latinx borrowers.

“Governor Pritzker made a promise after his election that he would work to remove barriers and make housing safe, affordable, and stable for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or immigration status,” said IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust. “These programs are a direct result of the Governor’s public charge to invest in Illinois’ people and communities and we look forward to increasing homeownership opportunities for those who thought owning their own home was out or reach”.

Both programs were created using appropriations allocated to IHDA in the Rebuild Illinois capital plan. Borrowers must meet all eligibility requirements established for IHDA’s DPA programs, and homebuyer education is required. The program is not exclusive to first-time buyers and may be used by buyers in any county in the state.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the difficulties that communities of color face when it comes to purchasing a home,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “Since staying at home is such an important factor in the fight against COVID-19, it is imperative to find a way to help disadvantaged people afford a home. These new programs will help give a boost to the communities that need them the most.”

A 2018 study by the University of Illinois found that outstanding student loan debt negatively impacts wealth accumulation for all borrowers (regardless of their race), but the impact is especially significant for Black and Latinx borrowers. (Photo courtesy of the IHDA)

“It’s no question that communities of color have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and so many are struggling to cope with the economic, public health and societal crises that arose from it,” said State Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago). “These new programs will boost up the people who need help the most, and I encourage anyone who is thinking of buying a house but is unsure if they can afford it to make use of them.”

Both programs are each expected to assist up 1,000 borrowers.

SmartBuy: IHDA Mortgage SmartBuy will provide a safe, affordable 30-year fixed rate first mortgage with a deferred $5,000 for down payment and/or closing cost assistance. In addition, the program will provide 15 percent of the purchase price (up to $40,000) in assistance for student loan debt relief to borrowers looking to buy a home and help build generational wealth

Potential borrowers must have at least $1,000 in student loan debt and must pay off their full remaining student loan balance at closing. The promissory note and deed restriction will have a term of three years, and if the borrowers sell the property within that time, they will need to sell to

Opening Doors: IHDA Mortgage Opening Doors, or Abriendo Puertas, is designed to increase home purchase accessibility for low- and moderate-income qualified homebuyers across Illinois.

This includes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, who pay hundreds of millions in federal, state and local taxes, yet struggle to find mortgage lenders and programs that will work with them. IHDA will provide a 30-year first mortgage with a fixed interest rate and $6,000 in down payment and/or closing cost assistance. The down payment assistance is forgiven after five years.

Interested homeowners can find additional information and a list of the nearest participating lenders at: