Senate Leader Atkins’ ‘California Dream for All’ Program to Help First-Time Homebuyers, Address Housing Affordability
SACRAMENTO – An innovative new program aimed at helping first-time homebuyers achieve the dream of homeownership will be heard in Senate Budget Subcommittee 4 on State Administration and General Government today, marking the first time that details about the California Dream for All program, led by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), have been unveiled.
With home prices climbing at a rate of 8 to 10 percent each year and the statewide median price paid by first-time homebuyers in 2021 hovering around $590,000, home ownership remains out of reach for far too many California families. For several years, the Legislature has been making progress on laws that help housing production – the California Dream for All program is the next step in addressing affordability, and helping families—particularly first generation homebuyers and those from communities of color who have faced systemic barriers to homeownership—create generational wealth.
“My parents had decent, honest jobs their entire lives and still our family was stuck bouncing from one substandard rental to another. Owning a home was out of the question when I was growing up, so I was deeply proud when I was able to buy my 950-square-foot home in San Diego when I was in my 30s. Everyone should have the opportunity to achieve that dream and invest in their families’ futures,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “The California Dream for All program will give more people the chance to break free from the cycle of renting, become the first in their families to own a home, and make it possible for more people to set their children and grandchildren on a path to success. This has the ability to change people’s lives.”
The California Dream for All program would assist first-time homebuyers by providing 17 percent toward the purchase price of their first home, thus eliminating the need for a large down payment, and in some cases potentially covering the entirety of the down payment. That also could potentially lower mortgage costs by about a third, since the homebuyer would have a smaller down payment and could forego costly mortgage insurance, a savings on average of about $1,000 per month or $12,000 per year. Homebuyers would also receive extensive mortgage counseling. Once the homebuyer refinances or sells the home, the state would be reimbursed for the 17 percent share of the home value. The funds would then be reinvested into the program, thus helping more first-time homebuyers purchase a home and begin developing wealth.
The recent Senate Budget Priorities plan proposes a $1 billion investment in the program for 2022-23, with allocations of $1 billion per year for the remainder of the 10-year period, along with ongoing funding for program administration costs.
Work on the California Dream for All program began more than a year ago, and was bolstered by budget trailer bill AB 140, which directed the State Treasurer’s Office to develop the program’s framework, with the goal of helping lower- and middle-income families achieve home ownership, and making the state’s homeownership landscape more equitable, inclusive, and attainable for Californians.
“Owning a home is the American Dream! Given that the current median price of a first-time home in California exceeds $590,000, conventional down payments of 20 percent have become unrealistic for far too many in the Golden State,” said California State Treasurer Fiona Ma. “The California Dream for All program will provide a path forward for lower- to moderate-income families to purchase a home by helping with their down payment. Homeownership builds equity and wealth, and enables Californians to fully participate in our modern economy.”
The Treasurer’s Office contracted with California Forward to complete a study of homeownership in California, which was intended to inform development of the California Dream for All program and analyze how it could help address the housing affordability crisis. Of the 555,858 home sales in California in 2021, 35.5 percent were purchased by first-time homebuyers, the report found. The average price paid by a first-time homebuyer that year statewide was $712,040, while the median price was $590,000. With only 26 percent of households statewide able to afford to purchase a median-priced home, many California families are currently priced out of home ownership. That is especially acute for families of color – only 17 percent of Latino and Black households are able to afford the median-priced home.
The report also found that while there are currently programs in place for first-time homebuyers to finance a home, including fixed-rate down payment assistance and shared appreciation models, they are small in scale and still leave homeownership out of reach for many families.
“The future of California continuing as a place where anyone can succeed will be influenced greatly by the ability of middle and lower-income residents to buy their own homes. Our analysis shows the California Dream for All program is perfectly complementary to the state’s already existing home financing systems–and can fill the gap for those who face structural barriers to homeownership that current state programs do not address,” said Micah Weinberg, Chief Executive Office of California Forward. “We are excited to partner with Senate President Pro Tem Atkins and the State Treasurer’s Office on a program that addresses this critical issue to help ensure housing for all.”
With homeownership levels in California at the lowest they have been since the 1940s, the California Dream for All program is a critical tool in helping more Californians take the first step in building family wealth and owning their own home.
“California REALTORS® commend Senator Atkins’ and Senator Skinner’s support for increasing homeownership opportunities for working Californians by including unprecedented funding for homeownership programs in the second phase of the Senate’s ‘Putting Wealth to Work’ budget proposal, which includes the innovative California Dream for All program,” said Otto Catrina, President of the California Association of Realtors. “Homeownership is a key element to securing housing and economic security for working Californians, building intergenerational wealth and creating stronger communities across our state. Many Californians can afford a monthly payment, but need assistance with the down payment and closing costs. We are pleased to support a plan that provides an opportunity for financial security and housing stability so all Californians can realize the economic and societal benefits homeownership provides.”
The California Dream for All program follows the mission of the Senate Democrats’ 2022-23 budget priorities and the goal of “Putting Wealth to Work,” while at the same time helping provide another avenue to help ease the impact of the state’s housing crisis, and providing another mechanism to help close the racial wealth gap.
“People want to be able to live in California, but we have a production issue and we have an affordability issue. We have to solve for this using every angle we can or it’s going to impact our economy,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “This is an innovative program, and I’m excited that we have a chance to make California a partner for individuals and families who want to achieve the dream of homeownership.”
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins