CalHFA tightens Dream For All application criteria

California housing program once more offers loans to first-time homebuyers, provided they meet a certain criteria

Homes sold in the Diamond Oaks housing development on W Caldwell and S Edison St. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published March 7, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – The California Housing Finance Authority (CalHFA) is offering a generous loan package for first-time homebuyers, although they must check all the boxes needed to get their name in the running.

The Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan is a down payment assistance program. It offers up to 20% for a down payment or closing costs, up to $150,000. The caveat is first-time buyers must, essentially, bring no buyer history, direct or indirect, to the application. Which means these individuals must be first-generation homebuyers.

According to CalHFA, a first-generation homebuyer is defined as “homebuyer who has not been on title, held an ownership interest or has been named on a mortgage to a home (on permanent foundation and owned land) in the United States in the last seven years.”

This means the homebuyer cannot have owned or occupied a home for the past three years, or not have lived in a home owned by their spouse in the past three years. CalHFA says there are exceptions and individuals interested in applying should contact the organization.

The prospective homebuyer’s parents cannot own a home in the U.S. The program also excludes anyone who may possibly inherit a home.

But the program also includes – and encourages to apply – individuals who spent any time in foster care or institutional care.

Again, according to CalHFA, to be considered, prospective homebuyers must register for a voucher with the organization. Thereafter, a lottery is held to determine who gets the voucher – that is, the loan. CalHFA is emphatic that the program is not first come, first served.

Eric Johnson with CalHFA told ABC30 Action News, “The whole idea is to give people who haven’t had the opportunity to have that generational wealth passed down to them through a house have the opportunity to get started on that now.”

He added, “I think the important thing is, don’t lose hope. There’s still a way to afford a home in California.”

There are also income limits. Applicants – individuals or couples – living in Fresno or Tulare counties cannot earn more than $132,000, which is the lowest income threshold. Income limits vary by county. For example, applicants in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties cannot earn more than $277,000. Santa Clara County has the highest income limit – $287,000.

Applicants must also pass a background check, must be pre-approved and complete an online homebuyers course.

Homebuyers repay the loan when they sell or refinance their homes.

Established in 1975, CalHFA was established as the state’s affordable housing lender. According to its website, CalHFA is a self-supported state agency that doesn’t rely on taxpayers dollars for its operational costs but regularly administers various state and federal resources on behalf of the state.

Darren Fraser