California bill looks to widen door on homeownership

AB 1840 seeks to expand homeownership access by allowing qualifying undocumented residents the opportunity to own a home

If passed, Assembly Bill 1840 would make homeownership more attainable for undocumented residents. (digerati on AdobeStock.)
Darren Fraser
Published January 24, 2024  • 
4:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember David Arambula (D-Fresno) wants the California dream of home ownership to be available to everyone, including undocumented residents.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1840, which Arambula introduced on Jan. 16, amends the definition of “First-time homebuyer” in Section 51522 of the state’s Health and Safety Code. It amends the code to read, in part, “First-time homebuyer means a person, including, but not limited to, an undocumented person, who is a purchaser of an owner-occupied housing unit.”

Speaking to GV Wire, Arambula said, “AB 1840 simply clarifies who is eligible for the Dream for All Program, which doesn’t have a citizenship requirement. But I wanted to ensure that qualified first-time homebuyers include undocumented applicants. This won’t affect the State budget. The program was allocated $500 million in the 2022-23 budget and is a revolving share appreciation loan program. So, it recovers its investment and can then extend loans to other qualified applicants.”

He added, “More importantly, the program is crucial in making homeownership more attainable and strengthening the economic development and quality of life for all our communities.”

Statistics relating to undocumented workers and home ownership are scarce. According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 2019, 604,000 undocumented residents or 22% of the undocumented population owned homes in California.

DREAM FOR ALL

The Dream for All Shared Appreciation Loan Program (Program) is offered through the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA). It was introduced in 2022.

The Program provides loans for first-time homebuyers. According to the Program’s handbook, a loan may be used with a Dream for All first mortgage. The loan, which may be up to the lesser of $150,000 or 20% of the home price, may be used for either a down payment or for closing costs.

The state recoups the money when borrowers repay the loan. The state also gets a percentage of the appreciation value of the home if the borrower(s) sell.

To qualify for a loan, each borrower must be a first-time home buyer. At least one borrower must be a first-generation homebuyer and be a California resident. The borrower or borrowers must occupy the home – which must be the primary residence – within 60 days of closing escrow.

To be considered a first-time buyer, the borrower must not have had an ownership interest in any principal residence or resided in a home owned by a spouse during the past three years.

According to a Jan. 18 CalHFA bulletin, the state allocated $220 million for the program for 2023-24.

CalMatters reported that last year, the Program helped 2,500 homebuyers statewide. Loan applicants claimed $300 million in Program loans in 11 days.

TAPPING A LARGE MARKET

Despite losing over 75,000 residents in 2023, California still boasts a population of over 38,965,000. According to the Pew Research Center, there were an estimated 1.85 million undocumented immigrants in the state in 2021, which was down from 2.8 million in 2007.

California has gradually loosened restrictions on its undocumented population. On Jan. 1, the state expanded Medi-Cal eligibility to undocumented individuals who qualify. Prior to the expansion, individuals under 19 or over 50 and older could receive benefits. This means over 700,000 individuals who were excluded from coverage due to age restrictions may now qualify.

If AB 1840 passes, it could be what the slumping California housing market needs. In November 2023, 18,800 new and resale homes were sold in the state. This marked a 14% decline from October 2023 and a 7% drop from the year prior. Sales volume for 2023 was 23% lower than in 2022. And annual sales in 2022 decreased by 24% from 2021.

Darren Fraser
Reporter