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It’s been nearly 25 years since the Georgia Housing & Finance Authority and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) joined forces to create what has become one of the state’s most distinctive and beneficial programs for home buyers: the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program. This affordable home loan initiative helps first-time home buyers turn the dream of homeownership into a reality. Since it launched in 1996, the program has funded approximately $820 million in mortgages. And in the last five years alone, 6,800 families have benefited from the Georgia Dream Program.
“Homeownership, the American Dream, is available to all Georgians,” says Housing Outreach Coordinator Tracy Turman. “The Georgia Dream Program is committed to providing safe and affordable housing options that are key building blocks to strong and vibrant communities.”
The Georgia Dream Program offers different levels of loan options for eligible applicants. The loans are designed to help buyers secure the funds for the down payment on a home, and it is important to understand that they are not grants.
“DCA acts as the secondary market for lenders who want to provide an affordable mortgage product to low- and moderate-income Georgians,” Turman says. “Potential home buyers apply with participating lenders for Georgia Dream loans. The loans are secured or guaranteed by FHA, VA, USDA-RD or conventional uninsured loans.”
She continues, “The assistance, either $5,000 or $7,500, has a zero-percent interest rate and functions as a second mortgage. Although there is never a monthly payment on this loan, if you sell or refinance your home, the amount of the loan is absorbed with equity, and the proceeds help the next generation of home buyers.”
Georgia Dream Program loan options include:
• The Standard Loan: A $5,000 loan that is available to all eligible home buyers who meet certain requirements
• The Protectors, Educators & Nurses (PEN) Loan: A $7,500 loan that is designated for individuals working in industries related to first responders, public protectors, educators, healthcare providers and active military
• The Choice Loan: A $7,500 loan for families that include someone living with a disability
The various loans give applicants options based on their particular needs. For instance, when Athens resident Maria Marino wanted to purchase the home she had been renting for several years, she knew she would need assistance with the financial aspect of the opportunity. She applied for a Georgia Dream Standard Loan and received $5,000 to put towards the purchase.
“It gave me the opportunity to own the house I was living in and not have to move,” Marino states. “It’s easy to complete the program and buy your own house. Georgia Dream was great.”
There are various requirements that applicants must meet to be considered for a Georgia Dream loan. To start, eligible applicants must have a minimum middle credit score of 640, and the household income cannot exceed $80,000 for one or two people and $92,000 for three or more people. The applicant also must not have liquid assets of more than $20,000 or 20 percent of the sales price of the home and will need to complete an online home buyer education course prior to completing the loan process.
In terms of the home itself, the purchase price cannot exceed $250,000 if the home resides in specific Georgia counties; these counties include Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Henry, Jasper, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton. Applicants must contact a participating Georgia Dream lender, as the DCA, as a state agency, does not lend directly to buyers. Fortunately, lenders within the approved Georgia Dream network are very familiar with the loans and the application process, which, according to Turman, takes 45 to 60 days from application to closing. After a compliance review, she notes, “If everything is approved, you will be cleared to close and on your way to homeownership.”
As more buyers look to purchase homes, the DCA is striving to enhance its efforts so the Georgia Dream Program is attainable by even more segments of the state’s population. “Our outreach efforts are being expanded to be inclusive of underserved markets, such as the Hispanic and rural markets,” Turman says. “New outreach initiatives include a virtual Realtor and lender training targeted to our Spanish-speaking partners.”
These efforts are an excellent addition to an already successful program, which has helped boost not only personal homeownership throughout Georgia, but also the economy both statewide and across metro Atlanta.
Owning a home is one of the greatest dreams a person or a family can achieve. And thanks to the Georgia Dream Program, that aspiration is within reach.
For more information, visit: dca.ga.gov/safe-affordable-housing/homeownership/georgia-dream
The Georgia Dream Program in Action
Holly Martin, community sales manager for Ellis Pointe by Rocklyn Homes, a new townhome community located in Conyers, recently assisted a local teacher who was trying to purchase a home. The buyer didn’t have the full down payment she needed to secure the residence she wanted in the community, which features beautiful three-bedroom townhomes starting in the low $200s. When she didn’t know where to turn, Martin quickly recommended the Georgia Dream Program.
“This is a really good program for teachers, police officers, firemen or anyone in the medical field,” Martin explains. “I utilize this program as a tool for buyers if they feel they need down payment assistance. This helps them get into a home at a reasonable rate and in a timely manner if they don’t have the full amount of the down payment they need saved.”
The home buyer applied for the Georgia Dream Program’s Protectors, Educators & Nurses (PEN) Loan, which offers up to $7,500 towards the purchase of a home. In the end, with her Georgia Dream loan in hand, her out-of-pocket expense was $5,000, and she received a 3.75 percent interest rate from the preferred lender with which she worked. “Interest rates are at an all-time low, and you can take advantage of the current market ,” note Martin, who recommends speaking to a preferred lender to see if you are eligible for one of the program’s loan options and start your journey to homeownership. To learn more about Rocklyn Homes and its single-family and townhome offerings throughout metro Atlanta, ranging from the $100s to the $500s, visit rocklynhomes.com.