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Low Income Home Loans and Programs in California

Low Income Home Loans and Programs in California

First time home buyer? Low income? No problem! If you want to buy a house with low income in California, there is help available to you! There are many programs that will assist you with tax reductions, down payment assistance and so much more!

Get more help buying a house with low income here!

Since there are several different types of assistance for a low income home buyer in California, we’ve tried to organize this list by type as much as possible.

California offers some special loan programs. 

Cal-EEM Program combines an FHA-insured Energy Efficient Mortgage with an additional Cal-EEM Grant for energy efficiency improvements. To participate in this program, you must obtain a home energy assessment to identify potential energy-efficient improvements and evaluate their cost-effectiveness.

CalHFA Home Loans are for low and moderate income families who are purchasing a home in California. This loan includes zero-interest down payment assistance, first time home buyer education and other benefits with a 30-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage. For more information, visit the CalFHA website.

CalPLUS Loan Program has slightly higher fixed-rate interest than CalFHA Home Loans but includes the CalFHA Zero Interest Program to cover closing costs. It appears that manufactured housing may qualify for a CalPLUS loan. Get more information here.

CalVet Home Loans are exclusively for veterans who are purchasing a home in California. This loan program provides below market interest rates and down payment options. To qualify, you must have served at least 90 days and have an honorable discharge. Learn more – and apply – here.

Section 8 vouchers may be able to help you purchase your own home! Learn more about this program and then contact your local PHA agency. Here’s a list of agencies and their contact information.

 Down Payment Assistance in California

Extra Credit Teacher Home Purchase Program (ECTP) helps K-12 public school teachers who meet the criteria of a first time home buyer. This program provides between $7,500 and $15,000 toward your down payment and closing costs in the form of a low-interest secondary loan.

GSFA Platinum is a California-specific grant program that provides up to 5% of the mortgage loan amount. This can be used to help with your down payment! Certain requirements apply.

MyHome Assistance Program grants a deferred-payment secondary loan for up to 3.5 percent of the purchase price or appraised value (whichever is less). This money can be used for the down payment or closing costs on your primary mortgage. This program is exclusively for low income first-time homebuyers.

Mortgage Tax Credit Certificates in California

Mortgage Credit Certificates (MCCs) can help you qualify for up to $2,000 per year in tax credits. You can use this benefit every year that you occupy the home and pay mortgage interest on the original loan! You may be able to obtain an MCC from the National Homebuyers Fund or the California Housing Finance Agency. Certain cities, such as Berkeley, may also issue these certificates.

Other Homebuyer Assistance Programs

Self-Help Enterprises provides assistance to homebuyers in the heart of San Joaquin Valley. This agency provides several helpful programs to residents who want to purchase a home in this area. They can help you purchase your home and may even help you build your own home (sweat equity required)! They also offer Homeownership Education and other helpful programs.

They specifically serve eight counties: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tulare.

Get extra help from these California communities!

(Be sure to check the city AND county!)

Alameda County can provide a Mortgage Credit Certificate for a first time home buyer who meets certain income limits. Various cities within Alameda County may offer other assistance programs, like down payment programs.

Alhambra offers up to $75,000 in down payment assistance to qualifying low income applicants who have lived in the City of Alhambra for at least two consecutive years before applying. For income limits, application instructions and other information, visit the City of Alhambra website.

Anaheim provides a HOME Program that focuses on providing decent and affordable housing to low income families. Part of this program includes homebuyer and rental assistance programs. Although the website was a bit vague, I was able to find some information about the Attainable Homeownership Program at Colony Park, which can provide up to $125,000 toward your down payment!

Bakersfield offers a homebuyer program, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, I was unable to locate any information about this program on the City of Bakersfield website. I have reached out to the city for more information.

Baldwin Park helps low income homebuyers purchase a home with gap financing through a silent second mortgage. The homebuyer must contribute 1.5 percent toward their down payment and then Baldwin Park makes up the difference between the home’s price and the primary mortgage amount. You can receive up to $70,000 in assistance from this program. Applications must be picked up at City Hall or downloaded from the Baldwin Park website. 

Bellflower has a Homebuyer’s Assistance Program (HAP) for low income households who may not qualify for typical mortgage options. This program will cover 100% of your non-recurring closing costs and up to 80% of your required down payment! You may receive up to $50,000 in assistance with ZERO interest. The entire amount will be forgiven after 30 years! You can use this program to purchase condos, townhouses and single-family detached homes.

Chula Vista offers up to $76,000 in gap financing for a first time home buyer. This program is available on townhomes, condominiums and single family homes in Chula Vista. You must qualify for primary financing, meet low income guidelines and provide 2 percent toward your down payment. For more information, see the Chula Vista flyer.

Clovis operates a first-time homebuyer program for low and moderate income households. The assistance is provided through low-interest, deferred loans. The Clovis website indicates there may be a waitlist for this program. 

Compton offers a First Time Home Buyer Program that can help low income families purchase a home. Exact details are not provided on the Compton website. It is indicated that you will need to contact the City Manager’s Office, Grants Division, for details. The listed phone number is (310) 605-5580.

Corcoran has a First Time Home Buyer Program that offers assistance in the form of a no interest, no payment secondary loan that can cover up to 49% of the home’s purchase price! After 30 years, the loan is forgiven. The buyer must contribute a 1% down payment to qualify for this assistance program.

El Cajon provides two First Time Home Buyer Programs to its residence. These programs are called “The American Dream” and the “California Dream” programs. These programs offer down payment assistance to qualified residents.

El Centro offers down payment assistance for First Time Home Buyers and a Residential Rehabilitation Program for those who want to rehabilitate their existing homes.

Emeryville offers a below market rate ownership program, down payment assistance program and homebuyer education workshop program for home buyers. Buyers may also participate in the Alameda County HCD’s Mortgage Credit Certificate Program.

Escondidprovides a First Time Home Buyer program called HELP (Homebuyer Entry Loan Program). This program is designed for those who qualify for a loan but do not exceed certain income limits. This program provides a low interest loan of up to 5% to cover the down payment and closing costs. You can find a list of lenders who can help you obtain HELP funds here. 

Fresno County offers a Homebuyer Assistance Program (HAP) that assists with down payments. This program offers 0 interest loans that are deferred for 30 years. You may have to repay it sooner if you move out of the home or pay off the original mortgage. Fresno also offers a Utility Connection Program (UCP) that can help you connect a home to existing sewer and water systems.

Merced County has several helpful homeownership programs. In addition to qualifying for help from Self-Help Enterprises (see above), buyers in this area may also participate in the county’s First Time Homebuyer Program, Homeowners Rehabilitation Program, Neighborhood Stabilization Program and/or Hero Program.

Modesto offers a Homebuyer Assistance Program (HAP) for low income first time home buyers with incomes equal to or less than 80 percent of the Stanislaus County Area Median Income (AMI). This low interest loan provides “gap financing” up to $60,000. Up to 5% of the assistance may be used to pay closing costs.

Monterey County provides a First Time Home Buyer (FTHB) program to low income households. Homes must meet certain size and purchase price requirements. You may be able to receive assistance with up to 20% of the home’s purchase price!

Oakland provides two programs: the First Time Homebuyer Mortgage Assistance Program and the CalHome Program. Both of these programs are designed for low income first time home buyers who are purchasing homes in the City of Oakland. For more information, visit the City of Oakland website.

Orange County provides a Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP) for low income first time homebuyers. The county may provide up to $40,000 of the purchase price of your home in the form of a deferred loan with 3% simple interest. This loan will not have to be repaid until you sell, pay off or refinance your home.

Paradise has a deferred, low-interest loan program for low income first time homebuyers. This program provides down payment assistance and gap financing for low income buyers.

Pittsburg offers up to $20,000 toward down payments for low income first time home buyers. These funds can be used to cover credit report costs, escrow, recording fees, title reports, title insurance and other things. The loan carries a 3 percent interest rate over 30 years but does not need to be repaid until the property changes title or is refinanced.

Porterville has several housing programs, including a first time home buyer program, home rehabilitation program, public utilities assistance program and more. The First Time Home Buyers Loan Program provides a deferred, 1 percent interest loan for up to 35% of the home’s purchase price.

Redding has a Homebuyer Program that grants borrowers a silent second loan with no monthly payments for low income first time home buyers. Borrowers usually receive $50,000 in assistance but very low income households may qualify for up to $57,000 in assistance.

Riverside provides first time home buyers with up to $50,000 in assistance through zero-interest, deferred loans! To qualify, you must have a combined household income that is 80% or less of the Riverside County Area Median Income (AMI).

Riverside County provides several housing assistance programs for first time home buyers and existing homeowners in need of repair. You may be able to receive assistance with your home purchase in the form of down payment assistance and/or a mortgage credit certificate. 

Sacramento County residents can receive assistance from the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) and the Sacramento Neighborworks Housing Service (SNHS).

SHRA resources include affordable home listings, mortgage credit certificates, homebuyer education and down payment assistance programs.

Neighborworks offers homeownership planning sessions that can help you prepare to purchase a home. They also provide homeownership education and other programs.

San Diego can assist with 17% of the purchase price of your home through a deferred loan with a 3% interest rate. You may also be eligible for a grant for up to 4% of the purchase price that does not have to be repaid. The grant does have a total limit of up to $10,000. You may also be eligible for a Mortgage Credit Certificate that can help you with up to $2,000 per year on your taxes!

San Diego County may contribute up to $70,000 toward your home purchase through its down payment and closing cost assistance program through the DCCA program. This program offers low income first time home buyers to borrow up to 17% of the purchase price of their home for down payment assistance and an additional 4% toward closing cost assistance. This is a low-interest, deferred payment loan program. Get the details on the San Diego County website.

San Francisco County provides a TON of resources for home buyers. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Downpayment Assistance Loan Program (DALP) provides a silent second loan for down payment assistance. To qualify, you must be a low to moderate income earner who is purchasing a single family home in San Francisco.
  • City Second Loan Program is a silent second mortgage for eligible first time homebuyers.
  • First Responders Downpayment Assistance Loan Program (FRDALP) is a special down payment loan program for active uniformed, sworn members of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) and San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) to purchase their home in the City or County of San Francisco.
  • Teacher Next Door Program (TND) helps teachers who are employed with the San Francisco Unified School District. If you meet all the program requirements, the loan can be forgiven after 10 years.
  • Mortgage Credit Certificate Program (MCC) assists homebuyers by providing access to sizeable federal tax credit. You could save up to $2,000 every year that you pay mortgage interest on your loan!

San Joaquin County hosts a GAP Loan Program for low income homebuyers in the County of San Joaquin.

San Jose offers a very specific assistance program in certain developments. As of the time of this writing, the website indicates that eight townhomes in the Tierra Escantada Townhomes development are eligible for assistance. You may also be eligible for other forms of down payment assistance.

San Mateo County provides up to $150,000 in assistance. These funds are used for first time home buyers and those who currently own homes but wish to move closer to transit. The program is known as “Housing Endowmnet and Regional Trust (HEART) of San Mateo County.” 

San Pablo partners with the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco to provide a Workforce Initiative Subsidy for Homeownership that provides $3 for every $1 contributed by the homebuyer. You may receive up to $15,000 from this program.

Shasta Lake offers a Homebuyer Proram (HP) for low income first time homebuyers. This program provides assistance in the form of a deferred second mortgage that is only paid when the property is sold, transferred or paid off. You could receive up to $60,000 from this program. You must have an income that is equal to or less than 80% of the area median income (AMI) to qualify.

Tuolumne County operates three programs for homebuyers: The County First Time Homebuyer Program, the Green First Time Homebuyer Program and the WISH Downpayment Matching Grant Program.

Turlock provides a First Time Home Buyers Program (FTHB) that provides the lesser of 40% of your home’s purchase price or $50,000. This assistance is provided through a deferred loan that accrues 3% simple interest. The loan does not have to be repaid until 30 years have passed unless the property is sold, rented or no longer occupied by the borrower.

Vallejo has a First Time Home Buyer program that provides gap financing for buyers. you may receive up to 20% of the sales price in the form of a deferred second mortgage. You may also be able to receive up to 3% of the sales price in a down payment assistance grant that does not need to be repaid.

Yuba County provides down payment assistance for homebuyers. 

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Nicole is the owner and lead researcher for Low Income Relief. She has over 20 years of professional research and writing experience, and she has been solely dedicated to investigating low income topics for the last 10 years. Nicole started Low Income Relief after a personal experience with poverty. When her husband was medically discharged from the US Army, their family experienced tremendous financial hardship. Nicole was able to gather help from multiple community agencies and move into a nearby low income housing unit in just two weeks! Since then, Nicole has been dedicated to helping low income families in crisis. She regularly spends hundreds of hours combing through countless resources to make sure that Low Income Relief has the most comprehensive and complete resource directories on the internet today. Prior to starting Low Income Relief, Nicole worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. Her work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, The Daily Herald, The Chronicle and more. Her work has also been featured by Google for Publishers and other leading industry publications.

Lawrence Cook Jr

Saturday 10th of December 2022

How about down-payment assistance for the homeless? I am currently working (2 minimum wage jobs) while living out of my car. I've managed to save $5k and climbing so cash. I plan on retiring Jan. 31,2023 making $1,029.00 on SSI. I plan on continuing to work however I an restricted to work. I cannot make more than $20k annually while collecting SSI. I also do some recycling for extra cash doing recycling averaging $300 to $350 monthly. I am 62 years old and 100% ambulatory! Don't Smoke, drink nor substance issues! Not even a criminal Past. Oh yeah! I am a performer! I did A.G.T. Season 15. I do a dance routine with Giant venomous Tarantulas crawling on me! I am the 1st/only/oldest person so far to accomplish this act. My current mission is to get out of my homeless situation and accomplish my GOAL!!! Which is performing.

I'm looking to rent to own or buy a piece of land to put this Mobil Home on. Looking roughly to spend $40-$50k. My ideal area to live in is, Apply Valley, Ca. Any leads would be most helpful!

YouTube Channel = Spider Master Larry

Thanks for reading.

Catherine Marucci

Sunday 11th of December 2022

Hi Lawrence. The various programs above use different financial factors to determine if you are a good fit, so many of them would be worth looking into. Here are some additional resources:

Doug Hollier

Sunday 22nd of September 2019

I hate being homeless, and im tired of renting and want my own home.

Riley Thomson

Monday 23rd of September 2019

Doug, I'm so sorry! We do have some information on buying a home with Section 8 vouchers. I hope this helps. -Riley