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In A Pinch? Downpayment Assistance Exists in Atlanta

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The federal government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers has come and gone, but potential purchasers in the city of Atlanta still have options at hand for saving a little moola on life's most important purchase. No, we're not talking about the latest iPhone. Invest Atlanta — the official name of the city's economic development agency — offers a handful of programs geared towards fostering home ownership. Sure, there are the obligatory fine-print requirements and hoops to be jumped through, but that doesn't mean they're not worth a look.

Neighborhood Lift Program: Provides maximum $15,000 mortgage assistance in the form of a 0% interest rate second mortgage. There's a five year period whereby some of that money must be returned if the property is sold, refinanced with cash out, or lost to foreclosure. In addition, the homebuyer needs to cough up an $1,000 fee for processing, which can come out of earnest money. Naturally, the property needs to be within Atlanta city limits, and it must be bought with the intention of owner occupancy. Although there's no maximum on the purchase price, the buyer's income cannot exceed 120% of AMI (translation: Area Median Income) depending on the type of loan, which is currently $55,700 for one person.

Atlanta Affordable Homeownership Program (AAHOP): Like Neighborhood Lift, this provides downpayment assistance in the form of a second loan with a 0% interest rate, but the maximum amount available is $10,000. However, it also covers 50% of closing costs. The income limit is 80% of AMI, and there's a purchase price cap of $252,890. Also similar to Neighborhood Lift, there's penalties if the home is sold, refinanced, or lost within a 5 year period. AAHOP is only available to first-time homebuyers.

Home Atlanta 4.0: Grants 5% of contract price to the buyer, up to $18,713. There's no first-timer requirement, and no 5 year penalty period like the previous two; once you've attained the money, it's yours. Home Atlanta also allows for a more hefty income level, topping out at 140% of AMI. Unlike Neighborhood Life and AAHOP which require mortgage approval from an approved lender, Home Atlanta 4.0 sets a minimum credit requirement.

Vine City/English Avenue Trust Fund: Meant to spur home buying in two of the city's most beleaguered, neighborhoods, this program offers a 0% loan on up to 10% of the purchase price. The income limit is $66,300 for a 1-2 person household, and the house, townhome, or condo must be with a strict set of neighborhood boundaries.

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— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Jonathan Carnright