L. Hamilton., UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County, DeLand, Florida, J. G. Ramirez, UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County, Kissimmee, Florida, and S. Preston, UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County, Sanford, Florida.
Situation: Home ownership is fundamental to the American Dream and successful home ownership is a primary method of building wealth. In 2013, Neighborworks found that 89% of respondents agreed the home purchase process was overly complicated and 75% of Americans were unaware housing counseling existed. United Way of Florida reports that almost half of families across Central Florida (48%), are at risk of housing instability due to low-wage employment and rising rents (ALICE Report, 2017). Citizens are unaware that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocates “down payment assistance” via local government programs to First Time Home Buyers (FTHB) towards down payments and closing costs. Down Payment Assistance (DPA) program applicants are required to complete eight-hours of pre-purchase home buyer education. Families who complete FTHB programs become eligible for DPA and are better prepared for home ownership. Methods: Volusia, Seminole, and Osceola County FCS Agents began collaborating in 2017 to build community recognition and document regional impact of First Time Home Buyer programs. Industry experts and Extension Agents serve as subject matter presenters. Participants learn home ownership budgeting, how to improve credit scores, and how to shop for and obtain an affordable mortgage. In 2017, 63 First Time Home Buyer workshops were presented across the three counties reaching 1,948 participants. Participants receive eight to twelve hours of education in group settings at Extension offices, using curricula from the UF/IFAS Extension and Neighborworks. Participants receive county-specific DPA training and fact sheets. Results: Ninety-five percent (95%) of participants (1,850 people) reported greater confidence in and better understanding of the home purchase process. Forty-one (41) participants purchased homes with DPA in the amount of $840,000 in assistance, averaging $20,487 per household. Conclusion: First Time Home Buyer programs help families achieve home ownership, build wealth, and contribute to stable, healthy communities.