Los Angeles, CA – On Saturday, July 8, 2017, Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), soon to be Faith and Community Empowerment (FACE), hosted its 16th Annual Homeownership Fair at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. With over 180 in attendance coming from 25 different cities, the fair provided an opportunity for home buyers and homeowners to meet with various mortgage lenders and housing organizations, along with gaining valuable information on the down payment assistance programs, the home buying process, getting free home repairs, and mortgage assistance programs. For the past sixteen years, KCCD/FACE has educated and counseled over 8,800 potential home buyers in obtaining homeownership.
KCCD/FACE President Hyepin Im welcomed the diverse crowd. “I just want to congratulate you for being here. I want to also thank our sponsors, which include Union Bank, U.S. Bank, Bank of the West, Citi, and others for their support to make this event truly a success.” She shared some statistics regarding the importance of owning a home. For example, a recent study by the Federal Reserve stated that “homeowners’ net worth is 36 times greater than renters.” In addition, for struggling homeowners, by connecting with a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, homeowners are “283% more likely in getting a loan modification.”
The 16th Annual Homeownership Fair was held in the historic Bullocks building at Southwestern Law School. “I really want to acknowledge our partnership with Southwestern Law School. We are very honored to have Dean Susan Prager to be with us.” Hyepin Im mentioned.
Dean Susan Prager was the former dean of UCLA Law School prior to coming into Southwestern Law School. She shared the value of working with KCCD/FACE. “One of the reasons I wanted to connect to this wonderful organization is that Southwestern, from its inception, cared deeply about making legal education accessible to everyone, and that included immigrants and working people.” Southwestern Law School continues to be an accessible educational institution for all people in Los Angeles. The School provides evening programs devoted to those who are working, two-year accelerated programs, and traditional day programs. Many of the local judges and those involved in the community have graduated from Southwestern Law School.
Dean Prager concluded by praising KCCD/FACE for the work it has done. “KCCD/FACE really helps people. This program is symbolic of that.”
The fair also had the pleasure of having CA Assemblyman Ed Chau in attendance. Former alumni of Southwestern Law School, Assemblyman Chau has been a housing advocate in Sacramento, being the former Chair of the housing committee and current member in the California State Assembly. “Thank you all for being here and want to thank KCCD/FACE for its work for the last sixteen years, helping countless individuals and entities obtain homeownership… Owning a home is truly a major part of the American Dream. In fact, I remember buying my home about sixteen years ago. And I could have a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
He stressed that although the homeownership rate is “not as ideal”, that legislature has been working on to get more funding to build affordable homes, providing a streamlined process, and continuing to provide tax credits to make homeownership more obtainable.
From the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, Ben Winter who heads the housing policy in the City, came on behalf of Mayor Eric Garcetti. He also affirmed Assemblyman Ed Chau’s concern of low homeownership. “We have one of the lowest rates of homeownership in the country. It actually has declined since the Great Recession and has not rebounded.” Ben Winter said. However, he emphasized the value of housing organizations, such as KCCD/FACE to guide potential home buyers. “I think organizations like KCCD/FACE are so important to help navigate this challenging housing market.”
Finally, Nicole Jones from CA State Controller Betty Yee’s office provided brief remarks. “As the chief fiscal officer of the state [of California], she is very much concerned with and monitoring and trying to promote areas of housing opportunities, promoting homeownership, and is a big proponent of financial fitness.”
A wealth of information was presented, which included such topics as “Why Buying a Home Can Be the Best Decision You Can Make”, “Government, Lender Down Payment Assistance, and Other Assistance Programs”, Knowing Your Rights: Housing Laws and Responsibilities”, “Becoming Mortgage-Ready: What You Need to Know”, and “Keys to Your Home and Keeping It”.
One of the key reasons of buying a home is the investment made, as opposed to renting. “Your house becomes your bank,” Cindy Wu, Realtor®, CRS, CIPS, ABR, SRS of The Cindy Estates Group shared. “As home prices historically increase, it is a method of building wealth in addition to getting tax benefits and savings – For example, a homeowner saves 96.4% compared to renting within Los Angeles. But it is equally important to find a great real estate agent to get you to the right home. Finding a Realtor who is a “top negotiator” and understands the various down payment assistance programs and products is key,” Cindy Wu mentioned.
The down payment and closing cost assistance programs can come from either the government or from mortgage lenders. George Guillen from the City of Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) spoke about the City’s assistance programs. “I first started working with KCCD/FACE about fifteen years ago at one of their first events when they were just started, and I am marveling here today at how much they have grown and become the experts within the Korean community in Los Angeles.”
Through the City of Los Angeles, their Low-Income Purchase Assistance (LIPA) Program will provide up to $60,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance for first-time home buyers. In order to qualify, income must be at 80% or lower area median income (AMI) based on household size. Attending a homebuyer education class is also required to qualify as well. “KCCD/FACE has a homebuyer education program. And that’s also very important in learning about the benefits of homeownership,” George Guillen stated. In addition, the City of Los Angeles has funds available for its Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program, a dollar for dollar tax credit based on the mortgage interest paid on a yearly basis. By qualifying for the MCC Program, this can help qualify for a higher mortgage loan amount.
He also shared some "very exciting changes" coming in the next few months. The City of Los Angeles will be increasing the amount of assistance in the LIPA Program from $60,000 to $90,000 in the coming months. An additional down payment assistance program for moderate-income home buyers will also be available for those whose income is higher than 80% AMI but are less than 120% AMI. The assistance will be up to $75,000.
In addition to government assistance programs, lenders provide additional down payment and/or closing cost assistance and have special loan products for first time home buyers. The various mortgage lenders spoke of their products:
To get more information and connected to these programs, coming to a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, like KCCD/FACE is the first place to start. KCCD/FACE Development Manager Moses Kim presented on KCCD/FACE’s housing program. As a “one-stop shop” to obtain resources and assessing mortgage-readiness, the homebuyer education classes and one-on-one pre-purchase counseling will help better prepare in the home buying process and obtain sustainable homeownership. “Home buyers are one-third less likely to fall behind once becoming a homeowner by receiving pre-purchase counseling,” stated Moses Kim. KCCD/FACE counseling is free of charge and can schedule an appointment by emailing KCCD/FACE at email@example.com.
Moses Kim also presented on credit tips related to homeownership. He shared that credit scores are an important factor to qualify for a mortgage. Minimum recommended scores for different mortgage loan types include FHA at 620 and conventional at 660. For those who have credit issues, the two key factors that could be affecting the credit score include delinquencies and holding a large amount of debt. A key tip - by paying on time and reducing the debt balances, credit scores can increase significantly. In addition, for those who have not regularly checked on their credit report, a free way to check is by going to www.annualcreditreport.com, where once a year can get credit reports from the three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. For those who are experiencing high credit card debt, KCCD/FACE has partnered with Safeguard, a national credit counseling organization, to provide debt consolidation in eliminating debt within 60 months.
Another Southwestern Law School alumni, Javier Beltran who is a Managing Attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) spoke regarding tenants’ rights related to homeownership. LAFLA is a nonprofit organization that assists low-income individuals and families with legal issues at reduced to no cost.
Javier Beltran shared about the legal implications of homeowners renting a room or a garage without proper notice to the City/County’s housing department. He emphasized that renting out a garage, unless there is a certificate of occupancy that allows renting, that it is prohibited from doing so. Homeowners will be cited by the local housing department and/or Department of Health and Safety for violations.
He also shared that for any discrimination issues or unfair treatment during the home buying process, individuals can contact California Employment and Fair Housing to submit a complaint.
Antonio Sanchez of Opening Doors Realty presented on how to get an offer accepted in the current market. As the current market is a seller’s market, it is important to be competitive with other bidders to make sure the offer is accepted. Some ways to make sure include providing a complete offer, getting a pre-approval versus a pre-qualification from your mortgage lender, a short letter stating why you like the home, asking price being at listing price or above, and having a good Realtor experienced in the down payment assistance programs.
Lastly, the seminar concluded with topics related to homeowners. George Guillen from HCIDLA spoke about the City’s HandyWorker program, a way for seniors and disabled/handicapped homeowners to get up to $5,000 in minor home repairs for free. Income limits do apply to qualify. The types of repairs include interior, flooring, ceiling, walkways, gutters, fences, and more. There are also opportunities to re-apply for the program after three years to get additional repairs.
Moses Kim spoke on a great program for struggling homeowners called the Keep Your Home California (KYHC) program. For homeowners who are unemployed, have fallen behind, payment is unaffordable, or if the home is underwater, the KYHC program can help with up to $100,000 in assistance. This program has helped currently over 73,900 Californians, totaling over $1.58 billion in assistance. Specific KYHC programs include:
If homeowners have previously applied and did not qualify due to income limits, the program has increased its limits significantly for 2017. For example, Los Angeles County is at $91,361 or lower to qualify. For those interested and to check eligibility, please contact KCCD/FACE to schedule a free counseling session by calling 213-985-1500 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. English, Spanish, and Korean-language counseling available.
The event concluded with a grand raffle prize giveaway of a big-screen TV. Individuals who are interested in any of the various programs mentioned may go to www.kccd.org or can contact KCCD/FACE by calling 213-985-1500 or e-mail at email@example.com.
We would like to thank our sponsors and exhibitors:
Bank of America
Bank of the West
Belasco Ellui Coffee
California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA)
The Cindy Estates Group
Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco
HSBC Bank USA, N.A.
The Korea Daily
The Korea Times
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Assessor's Office
MB Financial Bank
National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP)
National Association of Women in Real Estate Business (NAWRB)
Southwestern Law School
Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE)
Chinese American Real Estate Professionals Association (CAREPA)
Community Career Development, Inc.
Grace Community Service
Holman United Methodist Church
Keep Your Home California-CalHFA
Korean American Federation of Los Angeles
Managed Career Solutions, Inc.
National Association of Asian American Professionals
- Los Angeles (NAAAP-LA)
USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement
Glory Church of Jesus Christ
Immanuel Presbyterian Church
Joong-Ang Korean Church
Karsh Center of Wilshire Boulevard Temple
Oriental Mission Church
Wilshire United Methodist Church