Wells Fargo to announce homeownership program in Essex County that pledges $20K to qualified applicants

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has long pushed for more homeownership in the city, saying it will help improve income equality while lifting the lives of all residents.

On Friday, his hope moves a step closer to reality.

Wells Fargo will announce Friday morning that it is teaming with NeighborWorks America and its network member New Jersey Community Capital to bring its Neighborhood LIFT program to Essex County with a $5 million philanthropic pledge.

The Neighborhood LIFT program will create more than 180 Essex County homeowners by offering $20,000 down payment assistance grants that require completion of Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified homebuyer education.

Baraka was thrilled by the news.

“Newark is predominately a city of renters, and an important element of our equitable growth strategy is to enable renters to become homeowners,” he said. “We have created programs to make that possible, including grants, low-interest loans, low-cost property sales, financial counseling and our upcoming land bank.

“The LIFT initiative, with its $20,000 down payment assistance grants and homeownership counseling, is a valuable addition to those tools. We thank Wells Fargo for creating this program.”

Wells Fargo said its pledge follows the company’s announcement this summer of its new philanthropic strategy — one that includes a $1 billion commitment over the next six years to address the U.S. housing affordability crisis.

“Neighborhood LIFT is a great example of a housing affordability solution Wells Fargo is bringing to communities across the U.S.,” Greg White, Wells Fargo Community Bank’s Northern New Jersey region bank president, said. “That’s because nearly one-third of U.S. households spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

“Through the Neighborhood LIFT program, Wells Fargo is providing down payment assistance to hardworking families and individuals in Essex County so they can realize the dream of homeownership. This provides them with the opportunity to build wealth and live in safe, stable, and affordable homes.”

Interested homebuyers who want to apply for a down payment assistance grant must register beginning at 9 a.m. Monday at www.wellsfargo.com/lift to attend the free event. Wells Fargo’s 75th LIFT program launch event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel. New Jersey Community Capital will administer the $20,000 grants and determine eligibility. Local HUD-certified housing counselors will provide the required homebuyer education.

To reserve a $20,000 down payment assistance grant, eligible homebuyers must be preapproved for financing with an eligible lender to purchase a home in Essex County and earn 100% or less of the area median income, which is $100,600 in Essex County for a family of four. Military service members and veterans, teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians may reserve down payment assistance grants of $22,500.