Congress considers $15,000 first-time homebuyer credit

A refundable, advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000 for first time homebuyers, being considered in future tax and economic stimulus legislation, could catapult millions of renter households into first-time homeownership, a new Zillow analysis suggests.

While Congress has already passed billions in aid over the past year to provide homeowner and renter relief, housing will remain a key area of focus through 2021 — especially as Congress continues to grapple with decreasing affordability.

Zillow research found that with a 3.5% down payment on a 30-year mortgage with a 3% interest rate, about 9.3 million renter households in the U.S. (27.4%) would spend less than a third of their income on the monthly payment for the median home sold in their metro in 2020. An advanceable tax credit would remove for them what two thirds of renters cite as the single biggest barrier to homeownership — saving for a down payment. Other hurdles include qualifying for a mortgage and job security.

A tax credit could be even more beneficial to renters in relatively more affordable metros, like Pittsburgh (40.5% could afford a median mortgage), Cincinnati (39.7%), Cleveland (39.0%), and St. Louis (38.5%). Costly California metros like Los Angeles (10.1%) and San Jose (12.1%) have some of the smallest share of renters that could afford a mortgage, but the program would still significantly impact thousands in those regions.


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