Measure A-Funded Down Payment Loans Move First-Time Buyers into Homes of Their Own

Phuc Truong has been renting in the Bay Area for the last 14 years, struggling to scrape together enough for a down payment on her own home. For the last five of those years, packed in a mobile home with her husband Ngoc and their two children.

But with help from the Empower Homebuyers SCC program, Truong and her family bought a place of their own in San Jose this summer.

“This is my house—I can decorate it however I want and it is more comfortable,” Truong said in an interview this week. “Our kids love to play in the big backyard and have their own room. This is a place we can call home.”

Santa Clara County, in partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley, announced today that some of the first recipients of the down payment assistance program succeeded in buying homes. Funded by Measure A, an affordable housing bond passed by voters in 2016, the loan subsidies help prospective homebuyers cover their down payment.

The down payment assistance comprises a 30-year deferred loan for up to 17 percent of a home’s purchase price. There’s no monthly payment, and according to a press release about the program, “borrowers will repay the principal loan amount plus a share of appreciation based on the percentage of the amount borrowed.”

Adria Quinones-Masur, the Housing Trust’s director of homeownership programs, says the loans offer a vital hand up in a dizzyingly pricey housing market.

“It makes a big difference for the families,” she told San Jose Inside. “It helps first-time homebuyers when they’re getting their foot in the door.”

Housing Trust Silicon Valley is expected to administer approximately 230 loans to first-time homebuyers in the first five years of the program. Right now, eight new homeowners have benefitted from the loans, and another family is poised to receive a ninth. Quinones-Masur said that another eight down payment loan applicants are still perusing real estate listings for their own homes.

The best part of the process, she added, is seeing “the thrill on their face” when someone finally submits an offer on a house.

“Santa Clara County’s Empower Homebuyers program really allows the homeowner to have a fighting chance at affording a home, building up that equity, paying us back so that we can give that back to the next resident of our community,” county Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. “It is one piece of the puzzle to addressing our area’s housing crisis.”

In order to be eligible for a loan, your household income may be no more than 120 percent of the area median income and you must be able to put down at least three percent of a home’s purchase price.

So far the program has assisted a teacher in the Santa Clara Unified School district, an electrical engineer, a technician and a caregiver with buying a home.

“We believe when people can own homes in communities that matter to them, lives are healthier, richer, and happier.” Kevin Zwick, the CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley, said. “We’re proud to work with the county of Santa Clara on this program and we  are excited to help put Measure A funds toward the worthwhile goal of increasing homeownership and reducing the fear of displacement for longtime renters.”


  1. I like the shared-equity model of first-time homebuyer loans. It’s a smart, market-based use of Measure A money, that ultimately makes the taxpayer-provided Measure A resources go further.

  2. Another Fascist program invented and implemented by the corporate finance sector (big banks). They make money from loaning the government money (selling bonds), selling a mortgage loan, and then an overall benefit to them by driving up housing prices for when they sell other loans to buyers in the inflated market. More of the same tricks for banks to ‘make’ money in the housing sector. Same as 2008, but different financial mechanisms (with a feel good story to bat). Using their own neoliberalist justification of free markets: no down payment = no loan = no buyer = no demand = prices go down = lower loan amounts for the housing sector = less money ‘made’ on interest. Government subsidized down payment = loan to be made = buyer = demand = prices go up = higher loan amounts for the housing sector = more money ‘made’ on interest.

    Fascism is defined as using the government to pursue corporate interests. So, banks buying off the elected leaders and getting this measure passed so they can make more money in the housing sector is Fascism. Promulgating cover stories as propaganda to mask their true activities is a trademark of Fascists and has been done for centuries.

    A story about helping one Phuc is worthless. If the government truly wants to address the affordability issue: ban finance from housing since all it does is inflate prices. Apply an aggressive tax on all income derived from rent. Make housing an unattractive means for Capital to make money, then it will flow and invest elsewhere, housing prices will go down, and individuals can purchase their houses from the wages they earn.

    One upper class of society owning the housing and renting them to lower classes (either as monthly rent or rent paid via a mortgage payment) in today’s world is the same as the lord/serf feudal system of the middle ages.

    In the feudal days, when the serf had to pay the lord a portion of his crop or good he produced in order to use and live on the lord’s land…….this payment was called….RENT. Now you know where the word comes from. Phuc doesn’t own the house, the bank does, and she rents it from them through mortgage payments. But, hey, you can paint the walls the color you want so you think it is your house.

    We need to move beyond this. Inventing government sponsored fascist programs to make banks money is not a solution. Loaning Phuc a down payment so she can pay her rent in the form of a mortgage no different than loaning the serf a donkey so she can pay her rent in the form of a crop.

  3. One winner per week for the next five years, courtesy of Santa Clara County property taxpayers. For the mere cost of a latté, it’s just like a football pool except someone else always wins. For a few lattés more, they could hand someone a down payment every day. For sure this is the smart 21st-century road to long-term housing affordability, plus more jobs for unionized employees with guaranteed pensions.

  4. Great program! Let’s further increase demand for housing, by helping people who can’t afford to buy. While we’re at it, let’s pass a whole slew of expensive development fees and regulations to hold down supply.

    Brilliant system we have here in CA! What will they think of next? I shudder at the thought.

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