Homebuyer Assistance Program helps families buy affordable homes

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- A local woman and ten other families will enjoy Christmas in their new homes thanks to a Rockford financial assistance program.

"I just sat there, like I just got that comfort that this was it," says Margie Tyler, who recently bought a home with the help of the City of Rockford’s Homebuyer Assistance Program.

Tyler fell in love with a house after searching for about six months but didn't know how she would afford the improvements it needed.

"I was kind of thinking to myself, where would I come up with that kind of money?" says Tyler. She applied for the Homebuyer Assistance Program and passed the financial requirements.

The program helps make homes affordable by providing anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000 for down payment assistance, depending on how much the person makes. It also provides up to $40,000 to help make repairs around the house like electrical, mechanical, and plumbing, in order to fit the city code. The program is a five-year forgivable mortgage.

"The improvements made to her house will not only help her house and the value of it, but it helps the whole neighborhood and people who own their homes are more committed to their neighborhoods and more committed to the city that we live in," said Ann Seigel, a realtor with Gambino.

"Ultimately, it's reducing the cost burden. You're paying much higher in rent than you could if you were buying a home," said Andrea Hinrichs, a Housing Rehabilitation Specialist with the City of Rockford. Everybody in the program is required to take a pre-purchase counseling class to qualify for the program.

"You're going through classes at HomeStart to learn how to budget so that in the future you can continue repairing your home", said Hinrichs. "You'll have more income to live your life on a daily basis because you're not paying that in rent, but you also have more income to set aside so that you can continue maintaining the house and that pride that you have in your own home."

Tyler believes there is a home out there for everyone no matter their budget.

"Just don't give up, because big surprises do come in small packages," said Tyler.

In 2014, the City of Rockford received a grant through the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) which provided some of the assistance and rehab when the program first began. Now that the grant has ended, so all the money for this program comes from the federal government.

Everyone who applies will be evaluated to see if you qualify for the program. A few qualifications include being 1-4 person family, living in a home within the City of Rockford, and meeting the income limits which are all posted on the City of Rockford’s Homebuyer Assistance Program website.