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Buyers could get $15,000 to buy homes in some Nashville neighborhoods

With 50 percent of Millennials living from paycheck to paycheck, owning a home is a daunting financial commitment. Your new property comes complete with a load of maintenance costs, taxes and bills. So how do you know you if you're financially ready

Bolstered by $60 million in federal funding, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency is expanding a program to help first-time homebuyers, allowing people buying in targeted neighborhoods slow to recover from the Great Recession to receive $15,000 in down payment assistance.

THDA Executive Director Ralph Perry joined with Nashville Mayor Megan Barry at a new conference Wednesday to announce the available incentives, which are to be offered to modest and low-income homebuyers in seven zip codes in Davidson County as well as zip codes in 29 other Tennessee counties, seven of which are in Middle Tennessee.

“For all the good things happening in Nashville, there are areas of our community have not shared fully in the city’s success,” Perrey said, adding the program “will help strengthen and stabilize some of those areas and actually encourage people to make a home ownership investment there.”

Dollars come from the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. The influx of funds has allowed THDA to effectively expand its statewide Great Choice Plus down payment assistance program, which allows homebuyers across Tennessee to take up to 5 percent of the purchase price as down payment assistance.

In a break from normal practice, the treasury allowed THDA to target the zip code level with the enhanced $15,000 per-homebuyer incentive. Eligible homebuyers in Nashville who can apply for the program are one-and-two person households earning up to $82,000 and larger households earning up to $96,000. Perry said many wrongly assume the program only applies to a lower-income bracket.

Participants can use the assistance toward their down payment and closing costs in the form of a forgivable second mortgage loan. Homeowners will make no monthly payments on the second mortgage loan during its 10-year term. It also carries no interest.

THDA will also forgive 20 percent of the second mortgage loan each year starting in year six. As a result, the second mortgage would be forgiven altogether if a homeowner does not refinance sell or move from their home by the end of the 10th year.

Perry said THDA structured the program this way because neighborhood revitalization requires more than investment, “it requires the presence of an invested homeowners.

“And we think this program will encourage that very thing.”

In Nashville, designated zip codes are in 37218,37207,37208,37115,37217 and 37086. These includes parts of Bordeaux, Whites Creek, North Nashville, Southeast Nashville and Madison.

The infusion of funds comes as Nashville’s supply of affordable housing has dwindled amid rampant gentrification from the city’s ongoing economic boom.

“This program is going to bring stability to property values and make neighborhoods safer by attracting more residents who will be invested there,” Barry said. “This program is just another great tool in our toolbox as we work to create and preserve more affordable housing in Nashville and Davidson County.”

Perry said many people in Nashville aspire to homeownership but have heard about the difficulty in getting a mortgage and have therefore assumed it’s out of reach. He said with the incentive program “homeownership opportunity is actually much closer at hand that you had imagined.”

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