Georgia unveils new affordable home loan program

Georgia has launched a new program to help more homebuyers in the state get a foot on the housing ladder.

Georgia Department of Community Affairs calls the new initiative launched Monday the Georgia Dream Peach Plus loan program, and said it is effective immediately. In a press release, the agency said the program is “for homebuyers who may have faced obstacles in the past” and is aimed at borrowers who qualify for Federal Housing Administration loans.

“With a focus on increasing both income limits and the purchase price of the home, Georgia Dream Peach Plus aims to turn aspirations into reality for numerous Georgia families who may have been excluded from traditional homeownership programs,” the agency said in a news release.

The program offers 30-year fixed Federal Housing Administration loans; increases income limits so that more homebuyers can get into affordable housing; raises the ceiling on the maximum purchase price; and offers down payment assistance.

Deputy Commissioner of Homeownership Wesley Brooks said those traditional programs included the decades-old program, Georgia Dream.

“Because of the nature of the funding source, there were some restrictions on Georgia Dream that folks didn’t qualify for, and so now we found a way to make sure there’s a product out there for them as well,” he said.

Many Georgians who don’t meet the criteria for the standard Georgia Dream program because of income restrictions are still struggling to get into their first home, he noted.

“We operate off of homeownership being this critical investment for homebuyers — a wealth-building tool and a way to pass that on generationally,” he said. “The fewer folks that we have entering homeownership, at least for the first time, the less stable the communities are.”

Brooks said the criteria is adjusted region by region. In counties in the Greater Atlanta area, for instance, a one or two-person household making about $162,000 would qualify and a household with three or more people making about $186,000 would be eligible. Under Georgia Dream those limits are about $108,000 and $124,000, respectively.

The maximum purchase price in Greater Atlanta is $400,000 in Georgia Dream. In Peach Plus it is $500,000.

Through the program, homebuyers would be able to get a down payment equal to 3.5% of the property purchase price, or up to $10,000. Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, active military, teachers and nurses are eligible for 4% of the purchase price, up to $12,500.

Atlanta realtor Lisa Thompson said first responders are sometimes limited in what they can afford and face challenges in saving up for a down payment in the communities they serve. They don’t always qualify for alternative financing programs or down payment assistance, the realtor said.

“It’s important for people who are pouring into our community via their profession to have the opportunity to own a home as well,” she said.

To qualify for the program, Georgians need a credit score of a least 640. They must meet certain debt-to-income requirements, have a household income that does not top 150% of the average median income in their county, and complete a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development homebuyer education course.