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Turning Houses Into Homes: U.S. HFAs Evolve Down Payment Assistance Programs Amid Changing Housing Market Dynamics

(Editor's Note: This article covers DPA programs for HFAs that we rate under "Methodology And Assumptions: Housing Finance Agencies And Social Enterprise Lending Organizations," Dec. 27, 2016, and "Methodology For Rating U.S. Public Finance Mortgage Revenue Bond Programs," Oct. 10, 2022. )

The Expanding Use Of Down Payment Assistance

Post-pandemic, housing affordability has fallen.   As home prices skyrocketed in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic while housing starts remained lackluster, buying a home became more difficult for low- and middle-income or first-time buyers. The recent run-up in mortgage rates has only exacerbated the situation, making mortgage payments more expensive and limiting housing supply by constraining sellers (chart 1). U.S. housing finance agencies' (HFAs') down payment assistance programs (DPA) have played an increasingly important role in bridging the widening affordability gap for first-time buyers.

Rated HFA borrowers' use of DPA products has increased considerably since 2017 (chart 2). In 2022, about 60% of agencies offered some form of DPA to more than 90% of home buyers; this is up from 41% of agencies in 2017. In the same year, the average DPA provided per borrower was approximately $10,000 compared with approximately $7,400 in 2017. Average DPA provided over borrower income rose to 15% of an HFA borrower's income in 2022 from 13% in 2017.

Chart 1


Chart 2


Housing Market Dynamics Stress First-Time Homebuyers

Median income to housing values has fallen in every state.   Rising home prices have made the move into homeownership increasingly difficult. From 2016 to 2021, states' median home value jumped an average of 37%, with the highest increase in Idaho, where it rose 97%, from approximately $196,000 to $387,000. In contrast, for the same time period, the average increase in median income was 17% (chart 2). Although incomes have been increasing, the gap between home prices and income has been widening, making it tougher for low-to-moderate income and first-time homebuyers to purchase. In 2022, most HFA borrowers earned 60%-79% of area median income. We believe greater use of HFA DPA assistance has become, and will remain, essential for lower-income first-time buyers.

Average HFA borrower income rose 16% between 2017 and 2022.   In comparison, between 2016 and 2021, the average HFA purchase price increased 26%, or $45,000, according to the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA), while the average sales price in the U.S. rose 37%, or approximately $139,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The gap between HFA borrowers' income and average home price in their respective regions will likely remain broad in the near term.   As of fourth-quarter 2022, U.S. home prices remained overvalued in 85% of metropolitan statistical areas (see map). For more information, see "U.S. Home Price Overvaluation Continues To Ease But Remains High" published Aug. 7, 2023, on RatingsDirect). As of September 2023, 30-year mortgage rates are at a 21-year high. Depending on the trajectory of prices, which are contingent on a variety of factors such as the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, local housing market dynamics, and economic fundamentals, HFA borrowers will likely continue to rely on DPA.


From 2017 to 2022, the average DPA dollar amount increased more than 43%.   With the surge in borrowers' usage of DPA and the higher dollar amount provided per borrower, aggregate DPA lending has risen considerably. According to NCSHA, HFAs provided a total of $1.1 billion in DPA in 2021 up from $77 million in 2017. Many agencies have linked growth in their DPA programs to growth of on-balance-sheet lending. For example, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) attributes record-high loan originations to its DPA program, which launched in 2020, with more than 80% of borrowers receiving DPA in 2022 compared with fewer than 40% in 2017. Between 2017 and 2022, PHFA's loan portfolio climbed to $4.3 billion from $3.4 billion.

Credit Implications Of DPA Programs

Our analysis of DPA lending and loss assumptions varies by program and agency.  Typically, we incorporate HFAs' DPA programs into our credit analysis, quantitatively in financial metrics and qualitatively in our assessment of the agency's management and strategy. Some HFAs hold DPA loans on their balance sheet outside of their mortgage revenue bond (MRB) programs; however, the majority hold their DPA loans as assets in in their MRB program's trust. We typically include the assumed loss on the DPA loans in our capital adequacy analysis for an issuer credit rating on an HFA, whether held within the MRB program or separately on the HFA's balance sheet.

Most DPA is structured as amortizing loans followed by deferred or due-on-sale loans (chart 3), but some are structured as forgivable. We typically assume 100% loss on forgivable loans in our loan loss assumptions. For DPA loans that are externally funded, such as by state grants, we typically also include the source of funding if it is included in the HFA's financial statements. While the DPA programs are typically operated within HFAs' MRB programs, they will often exclude DPA loan balances from the MRB total loans and parity assets for cash flow purposes. Accordingly, we apply DPA loan losses to MRBP parity assets only when the loans are included in the program cash flows, if the loans require repayment and if we have available loan data.

Of the MRBPs we rate, only 10% include their second mortgages as assets in cash flows. In general, DPA products will boost balance sheets, bolstering loan origination. Furthermore, programs that require repayment will increase margins and annuity revenue even more while still promoting and enabling access to otherwise unattainable home ownership, which we view as a credit strength, given the historically low delinquency rates of HFA borrowers.

Chart 3


DPA product funding comes from a variety of sources.  These sources consist of HFA general fund reserves, portions of bond proceeds, to-be-announced (TBA) premiums, or other outside funds (chart 4). Many agencies use more than one source to fund their DPA products. The most common source is the general fund. Of note, 43% of HFAs using general fund revenues have recorded higher equity ratios, despite offering more DPA assistance in 2022 than in 2017. Generally, equity for these agencies has risen because, along with DPA lending, their on-balance-sheet loan programs have increased year over year, which has, in turn, lifted annuity revenues and equity. This has been true for most HFAs that have expanded their DPA programs and lending portfolios, regardless of the source, or combination of sources, of funding for the program. Another reflection of program success and mutual benefit, is that, in general asset quality hasn't weakened as use of DPA programs has reached new highs. In fact, nonperforming assets dropped to pre-pandemic lows in fiscal 2022.

Chart 4


DPA Programs Are Evolving

As demand swells and changes, many agencies are adapting their DPA programs.   Changes include increases in income limits, assistance amounts, and creation of new first-generation programs. Rising assistance amounts combined with the shortage of affordable homes will likely lead to steady high and increasing usage of DPA products. In addition, many state legislatures are allocating more money for HFAs to create or expand their DPA offerings. The following are some examples of recent agency activity by state.


Massachusetts HFA (MassHousing) received state appropriations in 2022 from American Rescue Plan Act money, which led to the creation of the MassDREAMS program. The program provided a grant up to $50,000 in DPA and closing costs for residents in one of 29 communities identified as most affected by COVID-19 and up to $30,000 for residents in every other city or town; as well, it could be combined with MassHousing's other DPA offerings. Due to overwhelming demand, MassHousing closed the MassDREAMS program after 79 days, having served 1,142 families, but it still offers other DPA options.


Earlier this year, Minnesota HFA was allocated $100 million from the state legislature to establish a community-based first-generation homebuyers DPA program pilot project.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Housing is administering a new DPA program, created in January 2023, that offers a grant of $17,500 to first-time homebuyers.


In July 2023, with funding from a $50 million state legislature allocation, Utah Housing Corp. began administering a first-time homebuyer assistance program that offers up to $20,000.

As evidenced by these examples, and supported by the numbers, continued state funding to HFAs for DPA programs remains very important; we consider state funding a credit strength for agencies, allowing them to attract more borrowers and supporting loan production without depleting MRBP or general fund equity.

We expect DPA will remain a critical component for HFAs to keep supporting sustainable first-time homeownership in their states. As agencies adapt their programs to changing needs and economies, the impact and structure of these programs could change as well, but, in our view, will still serve HFAs' public mission.

Table 1

Purchase price and income, 2017 versus 2022
Housing finance agency Average HFA borrower home purchase price, 2022 Average HFA borrower home purchase price, 2017 Average HFA borrower income, 2022 Average HFA borrower income, 2017 Average DPA per borrower, 2022 Average DPA per borrower, 2017*
Alaska Housing Finance Corp. N.A. 250,000-299,999 92,000 78,900 N.A. N.A.
Arkansas Development Finance Authority 150,000-199,999 N.A. 68,925 N.A. N.A. N.A.
California Department of Veterans Affairs 250,000-299,999 250,000-299,999 136,800 77,061 8,708 N.A.
California Housing Finance Agency N.A. 200,000-249,999 N.A. 70,065 N.A. 18,703
Colorado Housing and Finance Authority 300,000-349,999 250,000-299,999 74,411 60,588 13,110 10,197
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority 200,000-249,999 150,000-199,999 70,000 59,000 28,966 11,171
DC Housing Finance Agency 350,000+ 300,000-349,999 75,000 85,611 10,000 10,056
Georgia Housing and Finance Authority 150,000-199,999 100,000-149,999 56,726 50,000 10,503§ 10,396
Idaho Housing and Finance Association 350,000+ 150,000-199,999 92,337 51,400 13,340 4,000
Illinois Housing Development Authority 150,000-199,999 100,000-149,999 62,162 52,558 6,362 8,800
Iowa Finance Authority 100,000-149,999 100,000-149,999 63,460 59,165 3,700 2,500
Kentucky Housing Corporation 150,000-199,999 100,000-149,999 73,439 67,333 6,844 6,468
Maine State Housing Authority 200,000-249,999 100,000-149,999 67,728 50,900 4,375 3,500
Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency 250,000-299,999 250,000-299,999 58,256 58,000 13,436 7,215
Michigan State Housing Development Authority 100,000-149,999 100,000-149,999 58,364 52,169 8,775 6,375
Minnesota Housing Finance Agency 200,000-249,999 150,000-199,999 71,952 57,000 12,734 7,801
Missouri Housing Development Commission 150,000-199,999 100,000-149,999 64,467 57,179 6,436 4,821
Montana Board of Housing 200,000-249,999 150,000-199,999 64,481 53,000 9,165 5,843
Nebraska Investment Finance Authority 150,000-199,999 100,000-149,999* 62,306 57,982* 7,420 5,238
Nevada Housing Divison 250,000-299,999 200,000-249,999 70,000 59,935 9,931 7,674
New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency 200,000-249,999 150,000-199,999 76,653 51,982 10,005 14,829
New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority 200,000-249,999 100,000-149,999 56,112 49,246 8,000 5,726
North Carolina Housing Finance Agency 150,000-199,999 100,000-149,999 51,719 47,630 7,891 10,400
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency 150,000-199,999 100,000-149,999 65,125 59,073 9,655 4,019
Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation 300,000-349,999 150,000-199,999 77,783 66,000 11,941 7,436
South Dakota Housing Development Authority 200,000-249,999 Less than 100,000 73,411 38,000 8,655 4,387
Tennessee Housing Development Agency 200,000-249,999 Less than 100,000 62,253 39,500 10,325 7,279
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs 200,000-249,999 150,000-199,999 62,082 52,591 8,820 6,425
Utah Housing Corporation 350,000+ 150,000-199,999 75,547 55,095 20,742 10,373
Virginia Housing Development Authority 200,000-249,999 150,000-199,999 71,547 62,933 7,162 3,870
West Virginia Housing Development Fund 100,000-149,999 100,000-149,999 50,000 57,343 6,800 6,318
Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority 150,000-199,999 Less than 100,000 57,134 39,000 7,341 3,918
Wyoming Community Development Authority 200,000-249,999 150,000-199,999 54,786 53,000 8,421 6,244
N.A.--Not available. *Per National Council of State Housing Agencies. §YTD 2023, Jan-Aug. Sources: S&P Global Ratings HFA DPA Survey, June 2023; National Council of State Housing Agencies State HFA Factbook: 2017 NCHSA Annual Survey Results where noted.

Table 2

Borrower income as % of area median income in 2022
(%) Borrowers earning less than 50% of AMI Borrowers earning 50%-59% of AMI Borrowers earning 60%-79% of AMI Borrowers earning 80%-99% Borrowers earning 100%+ of AMI
Colorado Housing and Finance Authority 2 4 22 29 43
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority 23 23 37 15 2
DC Housing Finance Agency 10 10 60 15 5
Department of Veteran Affairs of the State of California 18 6 16 33 28
Idaho Housing and Finance Association 2 3 13 18 64
Illinois Housing Development Authority 25 15 28 20 12
Iowa Finance Authority 18 16 30 24 13
Kentucky Housing Corporation 4 7 26 19 44
Maine State Housing Authority 3 9 27 30 31
MassHousing 30 37 29 4 0
Michigan State Housing Develpment Authority 14 16 30 23 17
Minnesota Housing and Finance Agency 25 19 30 17 9
Missouri Housing Development Commission 3 4 16 19 58
Montana Board of Housing 11 10 28 30 20
Nebraska Investment Finance Authority 11 13 32 34 10
Nevada Housing Division 8 9 29 36 18
New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency 28 18 33 15 7
New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority 3 2 12 36 47
North Carolina Housing Finance Agency 15 46* N/A 22 17
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency 17 13 28 23 19
Rhode Island Housing 6 10 32 30 22
South Dakota Housing 11 12 27 27 22
Tennessee Housing Development Agency 9 13 33 30 15
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs 18 18 39 25 0
Utah Housing Corporation 6 9 36 31 19
Virginia Housing 4 6 24 30 36
West Virginia Housing Development Fund 13 12 30 24 21
Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority 22 18 33 27 0
Wyoming Community Development Authority 26 17 30 18 9
*Includes 50%-79% of AMI. AMI--Area median income. N/A--Not applicable. Source: S&P Global Ratings HFA DPA Survey, June 2023.

Table 3

Housing finance agency products
Housing finance agency Borrowers receiving DPA in 2017 (%) Borrowers receiving DPA in 2022 (%) Funding source(s) Amount of DPA offered Product terms
Arkansas Development Finance Authority N.A. 96-100 General fund Up to $15,000 10-year second mortgage, matching first mortgage
California Housing Finance Agency 96-100 N.A. General fund; bond proceeds; other Lesser of 3.5% (government loans) or 3% (conventional loans) of purchase price or appraised value Deferred due on sale, refinance, or maturity second loan
Colorado Housing and Finance Authority 50-59 96-100 General fund; TBA premium; bond proceeds 1. Up to lesser of $25,000 or 3% of first mortgage; 2. Up to lesser of $25,000 or 4% of first mortgage 1. Grant; 2. Deferred due on sale, refinance, or maturity of first mortgage
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority 50-59 90-95 State budget allocations 1. Minimum of $30,00 up to $20,000; 2. Minimum $3,000 up to $50,000 or $25,000 depending on location (limited time) 1. 1% amortizing second mortgage; 2. 10-year 0% second mortgage forgiven 10% annually until year 10 (will drop to third mortgage if buyer also receives amortizing second)
D.C. Housing Finance Agency 80-89 90-95 TBA premium Up to full amount of required minimum down payment 1. 0% deferred non-amortizing loan due on sale, 30 years from closing date, refinancing, or property ceases to be principal residence
Georgia Housing and Finance Authority 96-100 96-100 General fund; bond proceeds; recovered Hardest Hit funds (in next 10 months) 1. Up to $10,000 (Standard); 2. Up to $12,500 (protectors, educators, nurses, for family members living with a disability) Deferred nonamortizing second loan due on sale, refinance, or maturity
Idaho Housing and Finance Association 50-59 40-49 General fund Up to 7% of sales price 7% second mortgage w/15-year amortization; 0% forgivable loan forgiven over time with 0.125% interest rate increase on first mortgage for every 0.5% of forgivable loan used
Illinois Housing Development Authority 96-100 96-100 General fund; Bond proceeds 1. 4% up to $6,000; 2. 5% up to $7,500; 3. 10% up to $10,000; 4. $10,000; 5. $6,000 1. Forgivable second loan after 10-year amortization; 2. 0% second loan due on sale or refinance; 3. 0% second loan with 10-year amortization; 4. 0% second loan due on sale or refinance; 5. 0% forgivable second loan after five years
Iowa Finance Authority 70-79 90-95 Bond proceeds 1. Up to 5% of purchase price; 2. $2,500 1. 0% second loan due on sale or refinance with higher first mortgage interest rate; 2. Grant
Kentucky Housing Corporation 80-89 80-89 General fund Up to $10,000 Second 3.75% mortgage w/10-year amortization
Maine State Housing Authority 96-100 96-100 State real estate transfer tax; general fund 1. $5,000; 2. $10,000 for first-generation homebuyers Grant
Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency <40 40-49 General fund; bond proceeds; federal/state grants 1. Up to lesser of 10% of sales price or $30,000 (or $50,000 depending on property location) ; 2. Up to lesser of 5% or $15,000 of sale price 1. 0% second loan due on sale, refinance or first mortgage paid off; 2. 2% second loan, amortizing over 15 years, or due on sale or refinancing
Michigan State Housing Development Authority 96-100 96-100 General fund; bond proceeds Up to $10,000 ( in select zip codes), other zip codes up to $7,500 0% due on sale or refinance nonamortizing second mortgage
Minnesota Housing Finance Agency 96-100 96-100 Minnesota Legislature 1. Up to $18,000; 2. Up to $16,500; 3. Up to $18,000 1. Interest rate equal to first mortgage, 10-year amortizing second mortgage; 2. 0% interest second mortgage due on sale, refinance, or first mortgage maturity; 3. 0% interest second mortgage due on sale, refinance, or first mortgage maturity
Missouri Housing Development Commission 96-100 70-79 General fund; TBA premium; bond proceeds 4% of loan amount 0% second loan forgivable after 10 years. If sold prior to 10 years, unamortized amount is due
Montana Board of Housing <40 50-59 General fund; bond proceeds 1. 5% of sales price up to $15,000; 2. 5% of sales price up to $15,000 1. 15-year amoritizing second loan, same fixed interest rate as first mortgage; 2. 0% second loan due on sale, refinance, or payoff of first loan
Nebraska Investment Finance Authority* <40 50-59 Bond proceeds; recycled bond proceeds Up to 5% of purchase price 10-year second loan
Nevada Housing Division 90-95 96-100 General fund $15,000 Forgivable after three years (if staying in home)
New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency 80-89 96-100 State budget allocation Up to $15,000 Interest-free, five-year forgivable second loan
New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority 96-100 90-95 General fund; state housing trust funds $7,000 Second mortgage forgivable after 10 years
North Carolina Housing Finance Agency 80-89 90-95 General fund; bond proceeds 1. $15,000 (for first-time homebuyers and military veterans); 2. Up to 3% of loan amount 0% interest deferred second mortgage forgiven 20% per year at the end of years 11-15, complete forgiveness at end of year 15
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency <40 80-89 General fund; bond proceeds 1. $500; 2. Lesser of 4% of purchase price or market value or $6,000; 3. 5% of the lesser of purchase price or appraised value 1.Grant; 2. 0% 10-year amortizing second mortgage; 3. Second mortgage forgiven by 10% annually for 10 years
Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation 60-69 96-100 General fund; bond proceeds; funds from state and local fiscal recovery funds 1. $17,500; 2. Lower of 6% of purchase price or $15,000; 3. $10,000; 4. $25,000 (first-generation homebuyer) 1. Grant; 2. 15-year amortizing second mortgage with, in most cases, the same interest rate as the first mortgage; 3. 0% deferred second mortgage; 4 0% forgivable grant if homeowner keeps their home for five years as primary residence
South Dakota Housing Development Authority 50-59 50-59 General fund; bond proceeds 3% or 5% of first mortgage loan 0% due-on-sale or maturity second mortgage
Tennessee Housing Development Agency 96-100 96-100 Bond proceeds; DPA recoveries 1. $6,000; 2. 6% of sales price 1. 0% due on sale, refinance, or maturity second mortgage; 2. 30-year amortizing second mortgage (same interest rate as first mortgage)
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs 96-100 96-100 Bond proceeds; TBA premium 3-4 points of loan value 0% subordinante loan, 3% or five-year forgivable, or 30-year repayable terms due on sale, refinance, or repay
Utah Housing Corporation 96-100 96-100 General fund, other 1. Up to 6% of first mortgage amount; 2. Up to $20,000 (First-time homebuyers); 3. Up to $2,500 (Veterans); 4. Up to 3.5% of purchase price, not to exceed $25,000 1. 30-year amortizing fixed-rate second mortgage (2% higher than first mortgage); 2. 0% due on sale or refinance second mortgage; 3. Grant; 4. Interest- free, forgivable grant forgiven over five years (a portion forgiven each year employed as law enforcement officer in Utah)
Virginia Housing Development Authority 40-49 96-100 General fund 1. Up to 5% of purchase price; 2. Up to 2.5% of lesser of sales price or appraised value 1. 30-year amortizing second mortgage; 2. grant
West Virginia Housing Development fund 90-95 80-89 General fund Up to $10,000 15-year fixed-rate second loan (current rate is 2%)
Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority 70-79 80-89 General fund; Capital Magnet funds 1.Up to 6% of purchase price; 2. $7,500 1. 10-year fixed-rate second mortgage (interest rate same as first mortgage), monthly payments; 2. 0% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, no monthly payments
Wyoming Community Development Authority 60-69 70-79 Bond proceeds; other 1. Up to $15,000; 2. Up to $15,000 1. 0% second due on sale, refinance, or 30-year maturity second loan; 2. 10-year fixed-rate fully amortizing second loan
N.A.--Not available. DPA programs offered and/or administered by HFA. Source: S&P Global Ratings HFA DPA Survey, June 2023; S&P Global Ratings HFA survey, fourth-quarter 2017; National Council of State Housing Agencies State HFA Factbook: 2017 NCHSA Annual Survey Results; company reports.

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Primary Credit Analyst:Jessica L Pabst, Englewood + 1 (303) 721 4549;
Secondary Contact:Marian Zucker, New York + 1 (212) 438 2150;

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