New mortgage program offers down payment assistance to Santa Cruz County school faculty and staff
By Jessica A. York
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A San Francisco based firm has begun offering home mortgage down payment assistance of up to $120,000 to Santa Cruz County public school teachers, staff and administrators.
The startup company, Landed, has helped nearly two dozen homebuyers in the Bay Area to make interest-free home down payments since 2016, said Ian Magruder, Landed’s director of partnerships and a Santa Cruz County native.
During a press conference announcing the new public-private partnership at Santa Cruz High School on Thursday, Santa Cruz County Superintendent Michael Watkins describe teacher homeownership across the county as “almost unattainable.” The median home price in Santa Cruz County was $828,500, as of August.
Santa Cruz County Office of Education teacher Jennifer Izant Gonzales, a Live Oak renter, said her husband and two young children began seriously house hunting two years ago. With every home-buying app loaded on her cell phone and frequent visits to open houses, Izant Gonzales and her family even began to visualizing themselves as excited homeowners.
“With rent increases yearly, it is uncertain how long we can stay there,” Izant Gonzales said of her current home. “Housing insecurity is a real issue. It’s something that we discuss, a lot.”
However, Izant Gonzales said, “reality sunk in” when she had to face the impossible reality of footing a down payment on a 1,500-squarefoot, $800,000 home.
On Thursday, Izant Gonzales said that the new public-private program could help her achieve a home ownership dream that “has never really gone away.”
“Living in Santa Cruz County and working for our great students and community is part of who my husband and I are, and that will never go away,” said the 20-year educator. “Although we do look at how much they’re paying over the hill or how much it costs to live somewhere else, we are truly dedicated to staying here. So, we just hope we can make it happen.”
Landed’s partnership with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, and by extension all 10 public school districts in the county, comes just nine months after the Santa Cruz City Schools board heard a presentation on the concept from Magruder. At the time, the firm was seeking investors in its fund to get the program started in Santa Cruz County.
Since then, Magruder said, capital has come available through partnership with private foundations to extend the program immediately across California.
“We are launching in several new public school districts. San Mateo, Foster City, we’re launching in Sunnyvale, Woodside and many others,” Magruder said. “We’re launching in districts that have high housing needs and districts that are willing and interested in partnering with us to get the word out to teachers and staff. We want to work with districts that are eager to work with us.”
Magruder said Landed is continuing to seek additional investors, and has begun outreach to the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation.
The first applicant, a Santa Cruz City Schools teacher, has already been pre-approved for the program and is out looking for homes now, Magruder said. Applicants must have worked in a school district within the county for at least two years, pay at least 10 percent of the value of their home and agree to share a portion of their home’s value appreciation or depreciation losses upon repayment of the upto- 30-year assistance.
Information about program eligibility and prehomeownership education are available online at landed.com.
Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on November 16, 2017.