PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee is looking to help first-time homebuyers break into the state’s competitive housing market.

McKee launched a new RI Statewide Down Payment Assistance program Tuesday, which “aims to create more homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers.”

“Homeownership is one of the most important ways to build generational wealth, yet Rhode Island has one of the lowest homeownership rates in the country, largely because families and individuals can’t afford the down payment,” McKee said. “As we seize the moment to make significant investments in housing and in communities across the state, this down payment assistance program is an important boost for families looking to make their home in Rhode Island.”

The new program will provide eligible first-time homebuyers with $17,500 to cover down payment and closing costs.

McKee said the program was developed in an effort to “reduce the gaps in homeownership created by rapid and often volatile changes in Rhode Island’s housing market.”

“As we see housing costs continue to rise, this program offers critical funding to support to households that have been discouraged by a highly competitive housing market,” RIHousing Executive Director Carol Ventura said.

RIHousing will be reviewing applications and administering the grants.

Here are the eligibility requirements for first-time homebuyers:

  • Homebuyer’s credit score must be 660 or higher
  • Household income must be lower than $112,555 (1-2 person household) or $129,438 (3 or more person household)
  • Maximum purchase price must be less than $546,752
  • Homebuyer must complete the education course offered by RIHousing
  • Homebuyer must obtain a RIHousing-funded first mortgage through a participating lender or the RIHousing Loan Center
  • Homebuyer must list the home as their primary residence

“With the high rate of appreciation and limited inventory in today’s market, homeownership is simply out of reach for many Rhode Islanders,” RIHousing Director of Homeownership Peter Pagonis said. “Assistance with down payment and closing costs removes a key financial obstacle for families hoping to start on their path to homeownership.”

The new program is being federally funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Interested first-time homebuyers with questions can contact RIHousing directly by calling (401) 450-1391.