ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced the launch of a new transformative homeownership program, Opportunities for Wealth-Building Now, or OWN. This program will help grow and expand homeownership in Howard County. In addition, Ball unveiled updates to County regulations and a $4 million commitment toward homeownership in his Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) operating budget. Photos of the event can be seen here

In Howard County, our residents enjoy one of the very best places to live, work, play, grow and thrive for all. People move to Howard County for our incredible schools, vast parks, abundant community amenities and vibrant small businesses. However, with mortgage interest rates at a 20-year high, many future homebuyers are hesitant to enter the market, while existing homeowners are discouraged from selling. To continue making Howard County a place where all families can call home, we must promote affordable homeownership opportunities that empower residents to put down roots in our community.

Calvin Ball
Howard County Executive

The brand new, comprehensive OWN initiative is a bold approach to advancing homeownership initiatives at the local level. By expanding access to low-interest financing for downpayment assistance, improving home renovation loan criteria and investing in homeownership programs, Howard County is working towards making affordable homeownership more accessible to current and future residents.

In the coming months and years, Ball will be putting OWN into action through policy changes, budget investments and programs to expand homeownership in our community. To start, Howard County’s Department of Housing and Community Development is enhancing its Settlement Downpayment Loan Program (SDLP) regulations and modifying its Rehabilitation Loan Fund (RLF) program regulations. 

I know our county residents will benefit from programs that help homeowners build equity and gives them the power to transition from an entry level condo to a townhouse and finally to a single-family home. This is a much-needed step in the right direction and I’m glad to be adding my voice in full support of these programs.

Deb Jung
Chairperson, Howard County Council

“This program is for the many people who live, work and serve Howard County. We have so many community helpers and public servants who are shut out of owning a home in our community and I’m grateful for County Executive Ball's investments and adjustments to the Settlement Downpayment Loan Program,” said Councilmember Christiana Rigby.

DHCD’s SDLP provides loans to income-eligible persons who seek help in paying the down payment and settlement costs for the purchase of their primary residence in Howard County.  The proposed enhancements include:

  • Capping the maximum SDLP interest rate at three percent to make the program more affordable to prospective homebuyers. The interest rates for SDLP loans are currently set at two percent below the buyer’s first mortgage rate. When interest rates are high, SDLP interest rates are also higher. Because SDLP loans are deferred until the homebuyer sells or refinances the home, the loan repayment amount will be significantly less at a three percent interest rate than it is now under the current regulations. 
  • Creating a loan forgiveness provision for the HomeStarter loan, which will enable homeowners to have up to 30 percent of their loan balance forgiven at five, 10 and 15 years. This policy change will help low- and moderate-income homeowners keep more equity in their homes, building greater generational wealth for themselves and their families.
  • Removing the requirement of insufficient assets to qualify for the Workforce Initiative Loan (a type of SDLP loan), which will expand eligibility to potential homebuyers that work in the County.

“Capping the downpayment loan at three percent is a huge help in an environment where the mortgage interest rate is not expected to fall below six percent in the foreseeable future,” said Piet de Dreu, President of the Howard County Association of Realtors (HCAR). “HCAR is confident that the proposed changes to the Settlement Downpayment Loan Program will open the door to homeownership for more people in Howard County, and the changes to the Rehabilitation Loan Fund will increase home values and allow more seniors to age in place.”

DHCD’s RLF program provides loans to income-eligible residents to help pay for home improvements, renovations, or repairs, such as new heating and air conditioning systems, roof replacement and bathroom upgrades, to improve energy efficiency and accessibility. The proposed regulation modifications include:

  • Amending the RLF program regulations to add language that details the processes and procedures associated with the application and underwriting of County rehabilitation loans.
  • Setting loan interest rates at zero, one or two percent based on household income limits. Additionally, proposing that for:
    • Zero percent loans (low income), loans are deferred and forgiven at 20 percent per year for five years; and for 
    • One percent loans, loans are deferred for five years before repayment begins.
  • Increasing the new maximum loan amount to $50,000 per loan.

“On behalf of the Housing and Community Development Board, I want to thank County Executive Ball for his leadership and for his commitment to provide resources for residents living and working in our community that want to own their own home,” said Walter Davis, Chair of the Howard County Housing and Community Development Board.

“The County Executive’s continued investment in homeownership initiatives over the last five and a half years has provided opportunities for those that live, work or serve in our community, to own a home in Howard County. These changes will enhance the existing programs to address the needs of potential homebuyers and current homeowners,” said Kelly Cimino, DHCD Director.

To grow the impact of these programs and put them into action, Ball has included more than $4.5 million in his proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget. Of that amount, $4 million will be directed towards homeownership programs like SDLP, helping to create opportunities for more than 100 households to gain access to homeownership. An additional $600,000 will go towards DHCD’s RLF program to continue its support for low- and moderate-income homeowners to maintain their homes, make repairs that can improve energy efficiency and improve accessibility to age in place. 

The remaining $110,000 will go towards DHCD’s homebuyer education workshops. The homebuyer education workshops are offered monthly and educate participants about budgeting and credit usage, assessing home readiness, mortgage financing, and maintaining a home and post-purchase finances after closing. In 2023, approximately 325 residents took advantage of these workshops and in the first quarter of 2024, more than 80 residents have attended and received a certificate of completion. The certificate is required for first-time homebuyers to qualify for an SDLP loan to purchase a home. 

“With the existing disparities for marginalized communities and, more largely, low-to-moderate income families, homeownership is the avenue through which many households can create avenues for financial security to build wealth that will resonate for generations to come,” said Jasmine Brewer, Executive Director of MakingChange. “MakingChange is here to assist future homeowners achieve their goal of homeownership.”

For more information about DCHD’s homeownership opportunities, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/DHCD-Homeownership or contact DHCD at 410-313-6318 or email [email protected].  

Media Contacts
Safa Hira, Director of Communications
Kelly A. Cimino, Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development

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