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The Top Downpayment Assistance Programs in California and the U.S.

Homeownership, while not a guarantee of economic success, is largely considered an important pillar for financial stability. It acts as a forced savings account and allows people own a property that can be worth hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars.

Most agree that owning a home, with an affordable mortgage, is an inherently good thing.

But there are challenges. Most notably, the downpayment can create a significant barrier for homeownership. At a minimum, most aspiring homeowners need a couple thousand dollars for a downpayment. Depending on the loan, the buyer, and the property, a downpayment could be well over $50,000.

Clearly, not everyone will be able to afford such an expense, so to help people along in their buying journey, numerous national, state, and local organizations have created downpayment assistance programs.

They can all be helpful, but each one has unique requirements and limitations. Some are only available in certain areas, while others require your income to be below a certain threshold.

All, however, could help purchase a world class home.

Top Downpayment Assistance Programs

GSFA Open Doors

The Golden State Finance Authority, or “GSFA,” is a public entity that  provides support and affordable-housing solutions throughout California. They have numerous programs, including the “Open Doors” program, which provides additional downpayment loans up to 7% of the purchase price. For example, if you are buying a home worth $300,000, this program can provide a second loan up to $21,000.

The second loan is stretched out over 30 years and can be used on FHA, VA, USDA, and conventional loans.

GSFA Open Doors highlights:

  • Provides up to 7%, which can be used for the downpayment or closing costs.
  • Can be used even when the house is not your first home.
  • The buyer is not required to stay in the home for a specified period.
  • The loan can be combined with a gift that does not need to be repaid.
  • Allows for credit scores as low as 620.

GSFA Platinum

The Golden State Finance Authority also offers the Platinum program. This is similar to the Open Doors program, but comes with a few unique features. Like the Open Doors program, you don’t have to be a first-time buyer and the assistance can be used with numerous programs.

The main advantage is that it offers buyers the chance to secure a downpayment even when they have a credit score of 640. Although this is slightly higher than the Open Door program, which as a 620 requirement, it’s still very low.

GSFA Platinum highlights:

  • Credit score requirement of 640, making it accessible to numerous buyers.
  • There is additional support, up tp 2% of the purchase price, that does not need to be repaid.
  • Available for single-family home only (no multiunit properties) but users don’t have to be first-time buyers.


The California Housing Finance Agency, known as “CalHFA,” supports housing and home purchases among low- and middle-income California residents. Since 1975, this has been one of the more important organizations for people seeking homeownership.

With downpayment assistance programs, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from homeownership.

Through the MyHome Assistance Program, CalHFA helps California residents overcome the burden of a downpayment. CalHFA Equity Builder is one of their most popular programs. This is the only CalHFA program that is completely forgivable; the rest are structured as a deferred repayment.

There is also the CalHFA Government loans, which offers a deferred repayment option on a loan worth 3.5% of the purchase price. CalHFA Conventional Loans also offers loans of 3% of the purchase price.

Many of these programs, however, require that you be a first-time homebuyer and complete homebuyer education programs.

CalHFA highlights:

  • Some CalHFA program must be repaid, but the Equity Builder program is completely forgivable.
  • Users must be first-time buyers and homebuyer education is required.
  • Income limits apply but vary by county.

Dream House Foundation

This is a non-profit organization that was established in California but now has a nationwide footprint. Serving homeowners all across the country, this program allows people from all backgrounds to make a high-quality purchase. They are best known for their DPA program that offers a true grant (not a loan) worth up to 3.5% of the purchase price.

One of the unique features of this program is that it serves buyers with larger incomes. People with earnings equaling 140% of the area’s median income can use this program. It’s also a nationwide option that is available to anyone, in any area.

Dream House Foundation highlights:

  • A true grant that does not require downpayment.
  • Offers housing for people with an income up to 140% of the area’s median income.

The Chenoa Fund

Designed to increase access to homeownership, the Chenoa Fund provides downpayment assistance and support for many different buyers. It has many advantages over other programs, but the most significant is probably the lenient credit requirements. With this program, you can gain assistance for the downpayment even if you have a credit score as low as 600. This allows homebuyers with a few dents in their credit history to still take advantage of the loans.

The Chenoa Fund essentially offers two different options. First is a repayable, 10-year loan that has an interest rate 2% higher than the mortgage rate. The second is a completely forgivable loan that has 30-year terms and no interest. It starts as a loan, but can be forgiven (i.e. turned into a grant) if certain conditions are met. Whether or not the loan is forgivable depends largely on the amount; if the loan is 3.5%, it’s forgivable after 36 consecutive monthly payments. If the loan is 5%, it’s forgivable after 120 payments on the mortgage.   

Program highlights:

  • Credit scores allowed down to 600
  • Forgivable 30-year term with 0% interest and no monthly payments.
  • The financing starts out as a loan but, under certain conditions, can be converted into a grant.

Get the Support You Deserve for Your Next Purchase

If you need help working with one of these downpayment assistance programs, contact our helpful team today. We’ll find the right program for your specific needs, and even help with applications for this essential support..

Let us help your homeownership dreams become a reality!


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