What's at stake?

Homebuying costs in Fresno have skyrocketed, but the city is encouraging residents to apply to existing homebuying assistance programs while a city-led program is being developed.

Fresnans looking to buy a home could qualify for up to $17,000 worth of grants through a Bank of America program that offers down payment assistance and help with closing costs. 

The Bank of America Community Homeownership Commitment launched in Fresno in 2019 and has provided nearly $1 million to those in the Fresno area, according to Mark Riley, the Fresno and Visalia area Bank of America president. Riley said around 250 homes that are currently for sale in the Fresno area are available to purchase with grants through the program. 

As part of the One Fresno Housing Strategy, the city of Fresno is working to connect potential homebuyers with the Bank of America homebuyer assistance program while the city develops a program of its own that Mayor Jerry Dyer said may work in tandem with the Bank of America grants. 

“One of the most challenging things besides the cost of a house is qualifying for the loan. And part of qualifying for a loan is having a down payment,” Dyer said at a Friday morning news conference. “This will remove one of the barriers.” 

Homeownership has been out of reach for many who live in Fresno, in part because of systemic racism, contributing to the racial wealth gap. According to a 2022 California Realtors Association study, Fresno County has a 23% affordability gap between Black and white households.

Low wages in the city have also made it difficult for people to buy or even rent in Fresno as costs of housing have skyrocketed. Dyer said at the news conference that the average price of a home in Fresno is now $360,000. At the same time, rents have been raised to record highs.  

A supply and demand analysis in the One Fresno Housing Strategy found that in order to meet the community’s needs, roughly 8,000 single family home rentals need to be converted to owner-occupied homes for people who earn roughly 60 to 80% of the area median income  – which is approximately $32,000 to $66,710 in Fresno, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The One Fresno Housing Strategy noted that while there are roughly 1,700 affordable housing units planned to be built within the next three years in Fresno, only 73 are planned for homeownership.

Dyer said that raising awareness of the Bank of America program is one of the ways that the city is taking action on the One Fresno Housing Strategy recommendations. 

He added that the city is in the process of putting a dollar amount to each recommendation and within the next two to three weeks will present proposals for programs, including a city-led down payment assistance program, to Fresno City Council. 

The potential city-led program may allow for people to apply to both the Bank of America program and the city program to ensure people can afford to become a homeowner. Dyer also floated the idea that the city program may be used to help people pay down interest as the federal interest rates continue to rise to combat inflation. 

“I hear from people quite often that we need to implement rent control, and we need to prevent rents from escalating,” Dyer said Friday. “I can’t think of a better rent control than for people to own the home and have a fixed rate, a 30 year-mortgage on a house and then to build equity in that home as well.”

Dyer said the city’s goal is to increase Fresno’s homeownership level to 60%, especially among communities that have historically been left out of homeownership opportunities.

Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy added that the city’s goal of increasing home ownership will impact future generations. 

“Through safe, decent and affordable homeownership, children have the stability to learn, which leads to future job opportunities, which ultimately yields generational wealth,” Grundy said. “And that’s what we’re here to encourage at the end of the day. I know personally, having gone from homelessness to homeownership, how housing ownership or housing can drastically change the trajectory of one’s lives and future generations.” 

How the Bank of America program works

The  Community Homeownership Commitment includes: 

  • The Bank of America Down Payment Grant which provides 3% of the purchase price or up to $10,000 for the down payment,
  • And the American Home Grant which offers a lender’s credit of up to $7,500 to be used for non-recurring closing costs. 

According to Riley, neither grant needs to be repaid. 

Applicants must plan on occupying the home, however Riley said it does not have to be a person’s only home nor does the applicant have to be a first-time homebuyer. 

Riley said people whose income is around $40,000 to $50,000 may qualify for the full amount of both grants, while someone who has an income of $100,000 may qualify for a portion of the grant. 

How to apply

To apply for the program and see what other down payment assistance programs are available locally, visit fresno.gov/oca. To see if a home is qualified for the Bank of America program, prospective homebuyers can also visit realestatecenter.bankofamerica.com.

Fresno Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, and Central Valley Bank of America President Mark Riley, promote homebuying assistance program that can offer up to $17,000 on Friday, June 17.

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.