Burbank Housing Gets $14 million for 1st-Time Homebuyer Loans

Burbank Housing has received $14.72 million for homebuyers that can be used on homes anywhere in Sonoma County, provided the buyers are lower income (or moderate-income disaster victims) first-time homebuyers.

The fund will allow Burbank to provide over 140 down-payment assistance loans of up to 40% down (up to $100,000) to eligible buyers.

This funding was awarded through a competitive notice of funding availability process through California Department of Housing and Community Development’s CalHOME down payment assistance program.

“In today’s real estate financing market, ethnic groups are socially and economically challenged when it comes to qualifying for mortgages based on the way FICO scores for credit worthiness are determined,” said Larry Florin, CEO of Burbank Housing. “If prospective homebuyers have only rented over the years, a record of their regular, on-time payments is not factored into the equation.”

Florin said consistent rental payments are the perfect example of the kind of responsible behavior credit agencies and lenders are wanting to see and yet these payments have not traditionally been considered as part of a person’s credit score.

To address this void, Burbank Housing partnered with ESUSU Rent, a rent reporting service that helps landlords and their renters build credit by sharing their monthly housing payment information with the major credit bureaus, while also providing limited relief for renters experiencing financial hardships.

Florin said Burbank Housing has nearly 8,700 residents living within 72 rental housing communities it has built in Sonoma and Napa counties. San Francisco-based ESUSU’s reporting process now includes residents at nearly all of Burbank’s developments.

“Burbank has a long track record of good stewardship of HCD funding, and plans to deploy this funding to help address the affordability needs across the county. Because we are working with buyers countywide, as opposed to exclusively for our developments, buyers aren’t required to have a specific down payment amount to be eligible for this funding.” Florin said.

Down-payment aid in Santa Rosa

The city of Santa Rosa — in partnership with Burbank Housing — is working to launch a down-payment assistance plan that the city will be able to utilize in conjunction with Burbank’s program. CalHFA also offers a variety of programs exclusively for first-time homebuyers to assist with down payment assistance and first mortgage loans.

Additionally, the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco offers a down-payment assistance grant of around $29,000 through a program called Workforce Initiative Subsidy for Homeownership, or WISH.

“We also offer prospective homeowners a planning road map that includes reaching a low down payment amount by scheduling partial payments every three months held in reserve leading to the closing, while also hosting individual counseling and seminars to guide them through the process as part of a pathway to homeownership,” Florin added.

Sebastopol affordable development

Jacqui Salyer, Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County director of fund development and programs, said homeownership is the way to build generational income for a family and descendants while also creating community stability.

“Anything that makes it more difficult for would-be homeowners to obtain first time funding can have a big impact. Habitat has helped to finance construction of 48 homes and nine cottages since 1984 many of which were built with great pride and sweat equity by future owners,” Salyer said.

The all-electric cottages with air-conditioning, a heat pump, washer/dryer and appliances are now for sale, after serving the temporary housing needs of families displaced by the Tubbs wildfire since 2017.

Cottages include five two-bedroom homes (744 square feet), and four one-bedroom homes (425‒450 square feet). These cottages were originally placed on Medtronic property in Fountaingrove and must be relocated.

“In addition to being ADUs (accessory dwelling units), these cottages would be ideal for workforce housing or permanent housing for Habitat for Humanity families if land with utilities is donated,” Salyer said.

She said throughout these 40 years not a single Habitat home has been foreclosed and only one unit was sold when the owner graduated from college and moved. A four-unit Habitat development is being built in downtown Sebastopol at 333 Main St. within walking distance to stores, libraries and transit. Through Habitat funding sources, the down payments are as low as 3% to 5% for low-income buyers who qualify for their first home.

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in over 1,300 communities in the U.S. and 70 countries around the globe.