Ben T. Davis Beach

As Housing Market Tightens, City Expands Housing Program

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Cheryl Hodges Cummings, a DARE recipient, closed on her first home in December 2021.
She also received assistance through the East Tampa Community Redevelopment Area fund.

With housing affordability at the forefront of Mayor Jane Castor's priorities, the City of Tampa has expanded one of its housing programs, to further assist income-eligible Tampanians to become homeowners.

The City of Tampa's "Dare to Own the Dream" Homeownership Program provides forgivable down payment assistance loans to income-eligible homebuyers. Given the current market trends, loan amounts have increased, and the maximum purchase price has increased by $60,000.

Previously, first-time homebuyers participating in the program were restricted to buying homes that cost no more than $240,000, depending on their income. After observing significant difficulties in buyers finding homes at, or below, this price point, the City of Tampa initiated an effort to increase the maximum purchase price to $300,000 to give buyers more flexibility in a tight real estate market. The City explored having even more flexibility to support the purchase of even higher-priced homes, however, current state laws impose a maximum home value of $311,000, which the City does not have authority to exceed. Increasing the maximum purchase price too much can also place families in a difficult financial situation with the risk of foreclosure. 

"Finding a home right now, within a reasonable level of affordability, is increasingly difficult for most homebuyers, let alone for our low-income and working-class families," said Mayor Jane Castor. "Too often, the cost of down payments and closing expenses prevents deserving families from being able to buy a home, which is why we must constantly evaluate and improve our programs. Every Tampanian, regardless of their income level, should be able to live in our great city and our team is working diligently to maximize our resources and tackle this issue."

Recently, the City designated $1 million in general funds to expand the program's loan assistance so it could reach more families, including those whose earnings fall between the 80% to 140% average median income (AMI). For example, a family of four living on an income up to $103,320 can apply to the program and receive up to $15,000 in down payment or closing cost assistance.

Those at 0% to 50% AMI can now qualify for loans up to $40,000. Previously, the maximum loan amount was $30,000. 

During Fiscal Year 2021, the City of Tampa distributed more than $1.1 million to first-time homebuyers through the "DARE to Own the Dream" Homeownership program. Those who benefit from the program must live in the home for at least 10 years, for the loan to be forgiven. Homebuyers interested in applying for the program must go through one of the following three housing counseling agencies: Housing and Education Alliance, Solita's House, Inc., or R.E.A.C.H. (Real Estate Education and Community Housing, Inc.). 

A breakdown of the loan amounts based on area median income is provided below.

Loan Amounts Based on Area Median Income 
•    0-50% AMI - $40,000
•    50.01% - 80% AMI - $30,000
•    80.01% - 120% AMI - $20,000
•    120.01% - 140% AMI - $15,000
*Homeowners must live in the home for at least 10 years for the loan to be forgiven. 

Group photo with Mayor and Cheryl Hodges Cummings