First Time Home Buyer Traning (FTHB)

Homeownership is one of the most powerful asset building strategies for families. Purchasing a home is a complex transaction that requires much planning and preparation, including building good credit, saving for a down payment, working with a realtor to find a home that meets the family’s needs, negotiating a purchase price, applying for loans and evaluating competing loan offers, closing the loan, and then maintaining the home and family finances. Home purchase is particularly difficult for refugee families in Lowell. Homeownership rates for Cambodians are significantly below the rate for the general population. According to Census 2000 data, 30.64% of Cambodian families in Lowell live in homes that they own, compared to 61.71% of all families in Massachusetts.

The current downturn in the housing market has made home purchases more affordable, while at the same time, tightening credit requirements make it all the more important that prospective home buyers understand how to build a solid credit history. Government down payment assistance programs exist to help low/moderate income buyers. These programs require potential beneficiaries to attend and complete a homebuyer education program.

Our First Time Home Buyer (FTHB) classes are offered in partnership with with the Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership’s Project Genesis. The CMAA provides the outreach and recruiting, provides translation, and the classes are offered at the CMAA’s offices. Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership provides the instructors, speakers and handouts. These classes are the only classes offered for Khmer-speakers in Lowell. They are offered on weekends, while the English language classes offered by Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership are offered in the evening, which is an obstacle for the many Cambodians who work second or third shift in local manufacturing positions. Because of the language capacity we bring to the project, and because of the time difference, we do not compete with the English language classes that MVHP offers. Instead, we make those classes accessible to a significant segment of the Lowell community that is unable to complete the English-language classes.

This program will be integrated with the Individual Development Accounts Grant the CMAA received from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement. Under that grant, eligible refugees will take both a basic fiscal literacy class and a class related to one of three specific savings goals, which are homeownership, entrepreneurship or saving for post secondary or vocational education. Those completing the basic fiscal literacy class will open specially designated IDA accounts at the Lowerll Five Cent Savings Bank. Funds saved in the special accounts will be matched by the federal government up to $2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a household. Refugee clients saving for a home could save $4,000, the household maximum, receive match funds of an additional $4,000, and still be eligible for additional downpayment assistance up to $10,000, giving them a total of $18,000 for a downpayment and closing costs.

For more info on the First Time Home Buyer Training Program. Please contact:

Ronnie Mouth
978-454-6200, ext. 1000