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With median home prices in Boston climbing, it’s hard enough for any buyer to purchase a Boston condo for sale in the city. But for home buyers of color and new immigrants, it’s even more daunting. 

Racist redlining practices  shut out Black families from much of the housing market for decades, denying them the chance at building housing wealth that can compound over the generations. Meanwhile, discrimination reportedly persists in the mortgage industry, where Black applicants are more likely to be denied a loan or charged a higher interest rate, and some appraisers undervalue Black-owned homes. 

The city convened a working group of realtors, lenders, and public policy leaders to study the barriers to first-time homeownership, particularly among people of color, with a goal of creating 1,000 new homeowners by 2023. Chief among those barriers, of course, was high prices, which Walsh has attempted to alleviate through a sustained push for new home construction. But the city is trying to address other obstacles, too.

Boston Real Estate Programs

In response to those challenges, the Home Center launched its new ONE+Boston program in 2020, which combines down payment assistance with a discounted interest rate: The city buys down the loan’s interest rate by a half or even full percentage point. 

The program has been a hit. “We’ve seen a huge demand for this program,” Flynn said. “We’ve processed more than 150 applications, and we just got going in June.” More than 50 of those applicants have found a home to date, and 70 percent have been households of color. 

Program participants must be residents of Boston purchasing a home within the city. They must also graduate from a first-time home buyer course (recommended for any new home buyer) and meet income limits to qualify. The most generous rate discount is available to those earning less than 80 percent of the area median income for Boston, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development currently defines as $66,650 for a single person, $76,200 for a couple, and $83,300 for a family of four.  

Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA)

Another program, created by the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA), rewards first-generation home buyers who save up $2,000 toward a home with a matching $2,000 grant. This attempts to strike directly at the downstream effects of our intergenerational wealth gap.

Boston First Time Condo Buyers

These first-time home buyer programs require a fair to good minimum credit score — typically 640 for a single-family or condo and 680 for a multifamily — which was also identified as an obstacle for home buyers of color, particularly since credit scoring models have a long history of being discriminatory. To address that, Boston Home Center plans to launch a new program in the spring that will offer a $5,000 grant to first-time buyers who enroll in credit coaching class and are able to raise their score by 40 points or more, to 680 or higher. 

Boston Real Estate and the Bottom Line

For more details on the city’s home buyer and homeowner resources, including eligibility guidelines, first-time home buyer classes, and resources for existing homeowners and seniors (including low-interest deleading and home repair loans), visit the Department of Neighborhood Development’s Boston Home Center website.

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Updated: Boston Real Estate Updated 2021

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