The city has launched a new website for its upcoming assistance program for first-time homebuyers, Long Beach officials said Monday.

The city’s new First-Time Homebuyer Assistance Program, which will launch in early 2023, will give 100 eligible families up to $20,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance, according to the city’s new website. The money will come in the form of a grant and is not a loan or mortgage service.

“This is an amazing opportunity for first-time homebuyers to invest in their future and plant roots in Long Beach,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a city news release. “We’re excited to provide assistance to help make the dream of homeownership a reality for these families.”

Applicants must meet a variety of eligibility requirements, including holding U.S. citizenship or having the right to permanently reside in the U.S.

They must be first-time homebuyers, which the city defines as “someone who has not owned a home in the past three years.” Those applying must also be first-generation homebuyers, which are people whose parents or guardians never owned a home during the homebuyers’ lifetimes or who lost their home to a foreclosure or short sale and do not currently own a home, city officials said.

Anyone wishing to apply must also live within a federal Community Development Block Grant designated census tract in Long Beach with a household income that does not exceed 150% of the Los Angeles County area median income, according to city officials.

While residents can’t officially apply until the program kicks off next year, residents interested in participating or who just want more information can sign up for updates at the new website. Those who sign up will learn about upcoming orientation sessions hosted by the city’s Development Services Department that are designed to help individuals with the application process.

The program is estimated to cost about $3 million and is funded through the Long Beach Recovery Act, which is a series of economic and public health initiatives aimed at boosting the city’s comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Recovery Act included $5 million in housing assistance, according to city officials.

The new program has been in development since 2019, when the City Council voted to create a down payment assistance plan. Two years later, the council voted to increase funding for the program, according to city officials.

Phil Jones, owner and CEO of Coldwell Banker Coastal Alliance, said he thinks the program is “noble” and that $20,000 will certainly provide some help to low-income homebuyers. He said that he feels this is an example of how Long Beach has done more to deal with housing demand than most other cities in the state.

But he also said that while home prices seem to be leveling off, interest rates, which are currently 7%, are projected to rise to 8%. That could potentially add $120 to $130 to a monthly home payment, according to Jones.

“I think grants are great and this is a positive, but I just don’t know how impactful it will be,” Jones said.

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.