Government programs that encourage homeownership are often assumed to be limited to potential buyers with low-to-moderate incomes. While these programs do typically have income limits and sometimes home price restrictions, the rules are tweaked by location and reflect local market conditions.

For example, the DC Open Doors program, which helps increase affordability for buyers with down payment assistance and low-interest loans, raised its income limits earlier this fall to a maximum of $151,200.

While many homeownership programs base their income requirements on total household income, DC Open Doors uses just the borrower’s income, not the entire household. This increases the availability of the down payment assistance program to households with higher incomes who may struggle with saving for a down payment while paying a high rent in D.C. or paying student loans.

Other requirements of the DC Open Doors program, which is run by the DC Housing Finance Agency, include:

  • Minimum credit score of 640.
  • Maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 50 percent for a conventional loan and 45 percent for an FHA loan. Debt-to-income ratio is calculated by comparing your minimum payment on all recurring debt to your gross monthly income.
  • $484,350 maximum first mortgage amount.
  • No maximum sales price limit.

The program is available to all borrowers, regardless of whether they are first-time buyers. In addition, current residents and non-residents of D.C. may apply.

DC Open Doors’ down payment assistance is in the form of a loan for the full amount of your mortgage program’s down payment, such as 3.5 percent for an FHA loan or 3 or 5 percent for a conventional loan.

The zero percent interest loan for the down payment doesn’t require payments or accrue interest. The loan must be repaid 30 years after the closing date, when the home is sold or ownership is transferred, when the home is no longer your principal residence or when you refinance.

Although the informational sessions about buying a home and the DC Open Door program have been suspended during the pandemic, virtual seminars are being held by DC Open Door’s lending partners and can be found on the agency’s website.

For more information or to find a lender, click here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that information sessions about buying a home and the DC Open Doors program are held on the first and third Wednesday of every month by DCHFA. Those sessions have been suspended due to the pandemic.

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