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D.C. aims to make housing down payments more affordable for lower-income families

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser stands behind a lectern while speaking at a news conference.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced this week that first-time homebuyers could qualify for as much as $202,000 in assistance in the form of low-interest loans. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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Home prices are up by double-digit percentages from last year. Washington, D.C., like other cities, has responded with housing assistance. The district is doubling the amount of down payment assistance available for low- and middle-income households. Applicants could be eligible for up to $202,000 in low-interest loans.

D.C.’s Home Purchase Assistance Program is one of several similar existing or proposed initiatives around the country. Peter Hepburn of Rutgers said they can help buyers just on the cusp of affording a new house.

“Where I think that’s going to have the most benefit is going to be for Black and Latino families who don’t necessarily have the sort of inherited wealth that is more common in white families,” Hepburn said.

Critics say down payment assistance programs increase demand for homes, pushing prices higher than they already are. Hepburn isn’t convinced of that, given that just a few hundred families in D.C. have taken part over the last seven years.

HousingWire’s Logan Mohtashami said this kind of aid doesn’t address a structural issue with the housing market.

“This is just really a Band-Aid to a bigger problem that certain cities never built enough housing,” Mohtashami said.

D.C. is doubling down on the program while expanding another for homeowners who need help keeping up with their mortgages.

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