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Pennsylvania REALTORS Urge Passage Of First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program

By HOM Editor
June 2018
Home Inspection

Pennsyvania Association of REALTORS® Urges Passage Of First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program To Coincide With Homeownership Month In Pennsylvania

In Quakertown, Alicia and Jeremy Walck recently achieved a milestone. Living on a strict budget to pay off college loans while saving money for a down payment, they became first-time homebuyers.

Emily Dietz and boyfriend Ed Brown have similar plans in State College, as do Jesa Hollinger and fiancé Kyle Mundy in York County.

Yet contrary to what these examples suggest, the ranks of first-time homebuyers have dropped from 45 percent of the national home market to 32 percent since the start of the Great Recession in 2009.

“This is a troubling trend for all that we know about the positive benefits of home ownership,” said state Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny). “Owning a home is a good investment for families, and it makes for more stable and safer neighborhoods.”

Fontana is helping to lead the effort to boost first-time home ownership across Pennsylvania. On Monday, he introduced a resolution declaring June as “Homeownership Month” in Pennsylvania and noting that “owning a home is an essential part of the American dream.”

Todd Umbenhauer, president of the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®, commended Fontana for the resolution.

“But we’re even more excited and hopeful for the prospect of the General Assembly giving Pennsylvanians a tangible tool to help them achieve this part of the American dream,” Umbenhauer said. “They can do it with bipartisan passage of the proposed First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program. There’s a great opportunity here.”

Earlier this year, Fontana and Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Bucks/Montgomery) introduced Senate Bill 1066, which would create the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program. (Similar legislation was introduced as House Bill 1981 by Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) and Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe).)

The legislation would allow first-time homebuyers or buyers re-entering the housing market to set up 10-year tax-deductible savings accounts for purchasing a home. Parents and grandparents also would be eligible to contribute to these accounts on behalf of children and grandchildren.

The program offers the potential of boosting home sales by 4,000 per year across Pennsylvania while delivering an economic impact of up to $68.8 million. In a survey, more than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians said the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account would be beneficial to the state.

The program would help consumers overcome hurdles to homeownership, such as low salaries and college debt that can make it difficult to save for a down payment.

In State College, Dietz and Brown see homeownership as a better investment than continuing to rent. But Dietz, a dental hygienist, has several years left to pay on her student loans, and the couple is running into a seller’s market in which they are competing against investors buying homes as rental properties or as second homes for Penn State football weekends.

In York County, Hollinger is a full-time dental assistant while studying to become a dental hygienist; Mundy is a sheet metal apprentice who is furthering his training by attending night school through his employer.

With an eye toward a fall 2019 wedding, they are living with Hollinger’s parents to continue saving money for their first home.

Alicia Walck, the Quakertown first-time homebuyer, said she and her husband support the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program – even though it would come too late to help them – for the sake of “families like ours who dream of owning a place to call home.”

For more information about the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account, visit FirstHomePA.com.

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