By Mayor Jonathan Rothchild
Last month, we kicked off my Help for Homebuyers initiative, which, among other things, puts information together in one place on programs that help Tucsonans buy homes (MayorRothschild.com/homebuyer).
Homeownership stabilizes neighborhoods, helps families and individuals build financial security—even increases graduation rates, perhaps by improving residential stability. Yet, less than half of Tucson’s housing units are owner-occupied. Furthermore, many renters are struggling to afford rent when homeownership could be a better bet for them. So, it just makes sense for Tucson to try to increase homeownership by putting all available homebuyer assistance programs to good use.
We’re doing this through partnerships and education.
Many of our partners in this effort—Chicanos Por La Causa, Family Housing Resources, Old Pueblo Community Services, Pio Decimo Center, Primavera, and others—have been helping people buy homes for years. But to get help, you have to know where to look. So, my office put up a starting point on my web page (MayorRothschild.com/homebuyer).
The newest program is Pathway to Purchase, which starts in July. The Pathway to Purchase program has $48 million in federal funds to help homebuyers in Tucson with up to $20,000 in down payment assistance. That’s even more generous than the NeighborhoodLIFT program that helped 252 Tucsonans become homeowners last year. But this particular program won’t last forever—when that funding’s gone, it’s gone. I want people to take advantage of it while it lasts.
We have a number of key partners in this effort. City and county housing departments, city and county Industrial Development Authorities, the nonprofits that manage these programs, lenders, and realtors. In fact, the Tucson Association of Realtors has already put on a workshop for its members to learn about down payment assistance programs.
We want to make sure employers have this information, too, and can share it with their employees. Information on buying a home is just as essential as information on planning for retirement, which many employers already offer as a benefit. I’m looking forward to working with our City Manager and our HR Department to present city employees with this information, and I’m encouraging other employers to do the same. Contact Hope Home Foundation for more information. The phone number is on my website.
We’re in a very different place today than we were ten years ago, during the housing bubble. Dodd-Frank, passed in 2010, prohibits the unsafe lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis and recession.
In fact, a requirement of most of these programs is completing a HUD approved pre-purchase homebuyer education workshop. Homeownership is part of the American dream, but it’s a dream you should go into with your eyes open—making sure you understand what you’re getting into.
My last State of the City Address was called, “Investing in Tucson.” We’ve had some big companies invest in our community lately—Comcast, Caterpillar, the Coyotes—and we welcome these investments. But the idea of investing in our community isn’t just for businesses. It’s for all of us. Because when you invest in something, you take care of it. When you’re invested in something, you care about it.
Tucson is my home. It’s where I bought my home. I want every Tucsonan to have that opportunity, and take advantage of programs that can help them get there.