TAMPA, Fla. — As rent and home prices continue to skyrocket, affordable housing in the Tampa Bay area is more of an oxymoron than it is a reality these days.
That's why the City of Tampa is working to help more people become first-time home buyers and more importantly help them with a down payment.
On Monday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced the expansion of the Dare to Own the Dream program. The program offers educational courses and assistance to first-time homebuyers as well as tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment to those who qualify.
The expansion of the program now offers people who qualify up to $40,000 in down payment assistance. They have to live in their home for ten years to avoid repayment.
Another change is the cost of the house. Previously, the cap for a house to qualify was $240,000. That has now been increased to $300,000.
"These rising housing prices are going to start to push people out of our community and we cannot afford that to happen in the city of Tampa," Mayor Castor said.
The program has already proven to be successful for people like Cheryl Hodges Cummings. She has always rented, until recently.
"When the pandemic hit, I'm like I'm trapped in this tiny space and they've just gone up on the rent and I'm like no there has to be an out," Cummings said.
She went to her credit union for help and was pointed in the direction of the city's program.
Now, she's making memories in the yard of the home she owns with her grandchildren and is putting her energy into them instead of how she is going to pay for the increased rent.
"Before, I went to work. I went home in the apartment. Now, I can come outside, sit in my yard," Cummings said. "Don't give up. Take that leap. It will be worth it at the end because you will be a homeowner."
Sylvia Alvarez is the Executive Director of the Housing and Education Alliance, the organization helps people into homes. She said there are a few steps a person must take before they can move forward with the assistance.
"If you want to buy a house, you need to come and speak to one of the agents to see if you qualify," Alvarez said.
In order to find out if a person qualifies, they are required to take three courses through the Housing and Education Alliance. The courses are held via Zoom and once they are complete it will be determined if a person qualifies for the assistance. It's a few simple steps Alvarez said is worth it in the long run.
"In most cases, the people who we work with, they actually have a lower payment with their house and then they also have tax benefits as well," Alvarez said.
For more information about the program and how to qualify visit https://www.heausa.org/.