Reps. Williams and Cleaver Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Help First-Time, First-Generation Homebuyers Narrow the Wealth Gap

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) with U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Al Green (TX-09), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), and Joyce Beatty (OH-03) introduced bicameral legislation to help first-time, first-generation homebuyers accelerate wealth building through homeownership. By offering new homeowners a 20-year mortgage for roughly the same monthly payment as a traditional 30-year loan, the Low-Income First-Time (LIFT) Homebuyers Act will allow individuals traditionally underrepresented in the housing market to grow equity twice as fast. U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) said:

“Owning a home opens doors to opportunity. I’m relatively new to the journey, and already the security of homeownership has laid the foundation to build generational wealth for my seven-year-old son, Carter. The LIFT Act brings the dream of homeownership within reach for more families, pushing us one step closer to making the promise of America attainable for everyone. I’m proud to work with Representative Cleaver on legislation that continues our work to close the racial wealth gap and build an economy that works for the people.”

“It’s about time Congress took bold steps to support the American dream of homeownership for working class families that for too long have been left behind, which will not only allow more hardworking Americans to build generational wealth but also help close the racial wealth gap,” said Rep. Cleaver. “The LIFT Act builds upon President Biden’s economic agenda that focuses on building our economy from the bottom up and middle out, allowing more families to qualify for homeownership and build equity and stability in their home at an accelerated rate. As the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Warner and his colleagues in the Senate, as we seek to ensure every American has an opportunity to share in the prosperity of this great nation.”

“Homeownership is one of the key ways Americans build capital and wealth. Unfortunately, racism and systemic discrimination in our housing laws have put this opportunity out of reach for far too many families of color,” said Sen. Warner. “The LIFT Act will help narrow the racial wealth gap by allowing qualified home buyers to build equity – and wealth – at twice the rate of a conventional 30-year mortgage.”

The LIFT Homebuyers Act would establish a program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, to sponsor low fixed-rate 20-year mortgages for first-time, first-generation homebuyers who have incomes equal to or less than 120 percent of their area median income. Treasury would subsidize the interest rate and origination fees associated with these 20-year mortgages so that the monthly payment would be in line with a 30-year Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgage.

For example: A first time homebuyer of modest means who purchases a property for $210,000 is likely to put down $10,000 and take out a $200,000 mortgage. In today’s market, a lender would offer this borrower a 6.5% 30 year FHA insured mortgage, for which the borrower would pay an annual 0.55% FHA insurance fee and a 1.75% up-front insurance fee, which would be folded into the mortgage. The borrower would have a monthly payment of $1,377. Under the LIFT program, the lender would instead offer this homebuyer a 5.5% 20-year FHA insured mortgage, which would include an up-front 4.00% FHA fee that would be folded into the loan and no annual FHA premium. The borrower would have a monthly payment of $1,430. By paying roughly the equivalent monthly payment, a borrower with a LIFT loan would build equity more than twice as fast.

By allowing borrowers to build equity through their homes at twice the rate of a comparable 30-year loan without meaningfully increasing the monthly payment, LIFT will improve the power of homeownership for millions of families. Coupled with well-targeted down-payment assistance, the LIFT program will make meaningful progress in closing the racial wealth gap, expanding and greatly strengthening the wealth-building benefits of homeownership in communities too long left behind by our existing financial structures.

“The LIFT Act would be a groundbreaking new approach to help close the nation’s significant and troubling shortfall in homeownership among people of color and the associated substantial wealth racial gap.  Focusing eligibility on first-time, first-generation homebuyers would target this assistance to families and individuals most in need of assistance while also narrowing racial homeownership gaps. And the use of subsidies to make a 20-year mortgage as affordable as a 30-year loan puts homebuyers on a path to rapidly accumulate home equity while also making homeownership less risky. The proposed approach is also highly cost effective by leveraging federal subsidies to enable homeowners to build wealth over time more quickly and effectively,” said Chris Herbert, Managing Director, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

“Homeownership is the best way to build wealth, especially for lower and moderate income households and families of color, and LIFT supercharges that wealth-building. By helping homeowners get a 20-year mortgage with a lower monthly payment consistent with a 30-year mortgage, LIFT preserves affordability and supports homeownership, but also allows homeowners to rapidly accumulate equity in their homes. LIFT is among the most effective ways policymakers have to address the nation’s pernicious problem of large and widening economic disparities,” said Mark Zandi, Chief Economist, Moody’s Analytics.

For full text of the LIFT Homebuyers Act click here

CONTACT: PressGA05@mail.house.gov

Congresswoman Nikema Williams proudly serves Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District on the exclusive Financial Services Committee. She is a champion of voting rights and builds on the Fifth District’s legacy as the cradle of the civil rights movement as co-chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. Congresswoman Williams is committed to closing the racial wealth gap and ensuring the promise of America for all–regardless of your ZIP code or bank account.

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