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Peoria's Down Payment Assistance Program will provide up to 10% support for home buyers; invests in legacy neighborhoods

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Jordan Mead
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Peoria mayor Rita Ali announced the launch of the Down Payment Assistance Program on Wednesday. The program is part of Peoria's $2.5 million investment in neighborhood revitalization.

Peoria leaders want to increase home ownership in the city but securing housing down payments often stands in the way.

The new Down Payment Assistance program makes a way for potential home buyers to earn financial support when looking for a permanent home in Peoria.

The program launched Wednesday, and now qualified homebuyers can earn assistance of $5,000 or up to 10% of their home's purchase price.

The maximum purchase price to qualify for the program is a house price of $125,000. All qualifying homes for the program must be located within a Qualified Census Tract outlined in the American Rescue Plan Act.

Mayor Rita Ali said the program is part of Peoria’s $2.5 million investment towards neighborhood revitalization through the American Rescue Plan Act.

“It is our hope that this program ignites reinvestment in our neighborhoods and continues to foster pride in our community. Homeownership is empowering, and it’s rewarding. It allows community members to build equity and offers them the opportunity to call Peoria home for many years to come,” Ali said.

Ali said increasing access to affordable home ownership in Peoria’s older neighborhoods lays a foundation for better quality of life for the entire community.

“It means that Peoria is opening up more opportunity, providing some financial assistance for people that may not have that initial down payment. Sometimes it’s hard to save if you have a limited income, but this is an opportunity to supplement families that want to be homeowners,” Ali said.

The program will give Peoria’s legacy neighborhoods a chance to thrive and attract homebuyers in the city’s East, Central and West Bluffs, the South Side, North Valley and Averyville.

Ali said these neighborhoods not only make up Peoria’s history, but they contribute to Peoria's value today.

“One of the biggest hurdles for most homebuyers, and it’s not always first-time homebuyers, but for a potential buyer to purchase a home is the down payment. That is something that have to show they have upfront, free and clear of anything else before they can apply for those loans and get prequalified. So, with these down payment assistance programs, they’re able to fund that without tapping into their own resources or stretching anything else too thin.”
Jennifer Hamm, PAAR CEO

“I think it’s a real investment in our neighborhoods and in housing. We lack affordable housing within the city in terms of the quantity,” Ali said. “It’s not that we don’t have affordable housing. It’s not that we don’t have quality housing, but we need more. There is a demand for housing, and the housing stock is just limited. So, this is a great opportunity for us.”

Ali said the program is being administered by Peoria’s Land Bank. The Land Bank was established in 2021 and serves to address neighborhood blight and create equitable solutions for the city.

“For the long-term health of our community, the focus will go beyond vacant and abandoned property. The Land Bank is seeking to provide new and innovative strategies to provide opportunities for growth and reinvestment in our community. The Down Payment Assistance Program is one of those strategies,” Ali said.

The Down Payment Assistance Program is not only designed to draw more people into the Peoria community but to help current residents transition from renting to owning a home affordably.

“Research has shown time and time again that homeownership provides a clear path for creating wealth and stability for our community members and our neighborhoods. For many of these neighborhoods, home ownership is more affordable than month-to-month renting,” Ali said.

Joe Dulin is the Community Development Director for City of Peoria.

Dulin said ideally, homeownership all throughout the community is the goal.

“It’s important to know it’s not a first-time homebuyer program. Anyone can apply for the program. You have to have a mortgage, so that’s why we really encourage you to work with a realtor who then makes sure you’re connected to a lender,” Dulin said.

For people wanting to buy a home but unable to do so this year, Dulin said other nonprofit housing counseling agencies in the community can help future buyers improve their credit and contact lenders for future opportunities.

The program is dedicating $250,000 in total funds this year until all funds are expended, and $250,000 will again be available in 2023. After 2023, Dulin said Peoria will evaluate the success of the program.

“The city still will have additional American Rescue Plan money for 2024 and 2025. We had four years to spend the budget. So, if the program’s successful and we see a lot of demand, I think it’s something that our council may be very supportive of us bringing forward in the future as well,” Dulin said.

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Jordan Mead
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Jennifer Hamm is the CEO of the Peoria Area Association of Realtors.

The Peoria Area Association of Relators, or PAAR for short, partnered with the City of Peoria in creating the plan and assisting home buyers.

PAAR CEO Jennifer Hamm said affiliate lenders and realtors are the ones who will make this assistance a reality.

“We serve those desiring to sell and purchase property, we fight for property owner rights and we stand up for all wishing to become a homeowner. Homeownership is a pillar of the American Dream. We look forward to promoting your grant and serving those seeking the American Dream,” Hamm said.

Hamm said people who qualify for the Down Payment Assistance Program are not only limited to this source of support. There are other options in Peoria that can also remove the burden of their down payments.

“If you reach out to any of the lenders in Peoria, there’s many down payment assistance programs. The benefit of this grant that the city is launching today can actually be stacked with other down payment assistance programs. So, that’s a huge benefit for people wanting to get in the home ownership realm,” Hamm said.

The following are participating lenders in the Down Payment Assistance Program: Better Banks, Busey Bank, Flat Branch, Fortress Bank, Guaranteed Rate, Illinois National Bank and Morton Community Bank.

The program material was also translated to Spanish, and the website is accessible in Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Dutch, German, French, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Hamm said all lenders can help home buyers fill out the application and walk through the process of obtaining the assistance, though home buyers can still apply if they are not working with the lenders.

Overall, Hamm said the program will make a dramatic difference in Peoria.

“One of the biggest hurdles for most homebuyers, and it’s not always first-time homebuyers, but for a potential buyer to purchase a home is the down payment. That is something that have to show they have upfront, free and clear of anything else before they can apply for those loans and get prequalified. So, with these down payment assistance programs, they’re able to fund that without tapping into their own resources or stretching anything else too thin,” Hamm said.

People looking to receive down payment support can apply at appreciatepeoria.com/assistance

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Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.