Programs for Persons with Disabilities
ACCESS Downpayment and Closing Cost Assistance
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) offers home loans with competitive interest rates and fees through any of the Agency's first mortgage home purchase loan programs (i.e., Keystone Home Loan, Keystone Government Loan, HFA Preferred™(Lo MI), HFA Preferred Risk Sharing™(No MI)). All programs offer a fixed interest rate for 30 years.
- The Keystone Home Loan program has income and purchase price limits, as well as a first time homebuyer requirement specific to each county.
- The HFA Preferred Risk Sharing™(No MI) and HFA Preferred™(Lo MI) loans have income limits but do not have a first time homebuyer requirement, nor do they have purchase price limits.
- The Keystone Government Loan program does not have income or purchase price limits, as well as not having a first time homebuyer requirement.
Buyers with a disability or a disabled household member, who are eligible for any of these home loan programs, may also be eligible to receive funds to make accessibility modifications to the home they buy and may also be eligible for up to $15,000 in a no interest downpayment and closing cost assistance loan through the Access Downpayment and Closing Cost Assistance Program. The Access assistance loan is only available to buyers who are also using the Access Home Modification Program described below and whose gross, annual household income does not exceed 80 percent (80 %) of statewide family median income as determined by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It may not be used in conjunction with any other PHFA downpayment and/or closing cost assistance program.
First time buyers may also be eligible for up to $10,000 in a no interest downpayment and closing cost assistance loan through the HOMEstead Program. This assistance may be used with or without the modification program, but the property must meet HUDs Housing Quality Standards, and there are maximum income and purchase price limits depending on the county in which the home is located. The HOMEstead Program is not available in all areas and may not be used in conjunction with any other PHFA downpayment and/or closing cost assistance program.
You may be able to find a home that suits your lifestyle and living needs just the way it is. Or, you may find a home that would suit your needs if certain modifications were made—this is when PHFA's Access Home Modification Program can help. It offers a zero-interest loan between $1,000 and $10,000 in conjunction with a PHFA Keystone Home Loan or Keystone Government Loan. Repayment is not required as long as you occupy the home as your principal residence. Before you sign a sales agreement with the seller, you should first determine if the house suits your present and future living needs, or if it could be made suitable with up to $10,000 in modifications. A professional home designer can help you decide what type of modifications should be made. Common modifications include the addition or repair of an entrance ramp, widening of doors and hallways, installation of grab bars and handrails, bathroom and/or kitchen modifications, and the installation of lifting devices.
If you will be making modifications to the home, you will need to provide the lender with a contract for the modifications. The contract must:
- Be signed by you and a contractor registered with the PA Attorney General's office;
- Be contingent upon approval of your home loan;
- State the specific work to be done and must be supported by specifications, blueprints, drawings, etc.;
- Include the actual maximum amount that can be charged (not estimated amount);
- Include a release of lien clause to maintain clear title;
- State that the contractor agrees to complete the work in compliance with all applicable building codes and zoning restrictions and to obtain the necessary permits and a certificate of completion within 90 days of your closing date.
The appraisal of the home will be based upon the as-is condition of the home. In other words, the home's value does not have to support the amount of the modifications. The funds for the modification(s) will be held in escrow when you close on your home. An initial payment in an amount up to 1/3 of the contract amount may be disbursed to the contractor at or after your closing date.
If you think you might be eligible for a PHFA home loan (with or without any additional assistance loans), contact a participating lender. PHFA does not handle the mortgage application process. Instead, there is a network of lenders and brokers throughout the state that will process and close the loans. PHFA then buys the loan from them immediately following the loan closing (also referred to as Settlement). So, you would be making your mortgage payment directly to PHFA for the life of your loan. The lender will be able to determine if you qualify for a home loan and, if so, how much of a home you can afford. You should not rely on the lender to determine if and what kind of access modifications would be right for you. That is up to you.
PHFA also offers homebuyers the opportunity to receive homebuyer counseling and education through one of its approved counseling agencies. Attending a pre-closing course is required for borrowers with a FICO credit score lower than 680. However, we strongly encourage you to seek the assistance of a counselor before you sign a sales agreement, especially if you are a first-time buyer. Becoming an informed buyer will help you learn what questions to ask and how to understand the home buying process. It will also help you identify and avoid unscrupulous lenders and contractors that do not have your best interests at heart.
Moving into your new home is just the start to the benefits and responsibilities of owning your own place to live. Sticking to a sound budget will help you keep up with your mortgage payments and save some funds for future replacement and maintenance items. Keeping your home attractive and in good repair will help it to maintain or even increase in value. Getting to know your neighbors will provide you with a sense of community and security. When you start off on the right foot, you can have peace of mind knowing that you made the best decision on what will probably be the largest purchase of your lifetime.
ACCESS Home Modification
The ACCESS Home Modification Program provides mortgage loans to assist persons with disabilities or who have a family member(s) living in the household with disabilities who are purchasing a home that needs accessibility modifications. This program provides a deferred payment loan, with no interest, and no monthly payment. The loan becomes due and payable upon sale, transfer, or non-owner occupancy of the property.
Applicants must meet the requirements of the ACCESS Home Modification program which are listed below:
- Applicants must be homebuyers who are persons with a permanent disability or have a family member(s) living in the household with a permanent disability who are purchasing a new or existing home with a loan originated through one of the Agency's homeownership loan programs.
- Applicants may apply for any of the Agency's first mortgage program loans (i.e., Keystone Home Loan, Keystone Government Loan, HFA Preferred™(Lo MI).
- Applicants must meet the underwriting guidelines for the first mortgage program in which they are applying. Refer to Seller's Guide Appendix A for program guidelines.
Eligible Home Modifications
Home modifications should be designed to meet the needs of the person with the physical disability who will be residing in the home. Eligible modification items may include, but are not limited to the following.
- bathroom modifications
- installation of grab bars and handrails
- kitchen modifications
- lifting devices
- main level bathroom or bedroom addition
- ramp addition or repair
- sidewalk addition or repair
- widening doorways or hallways
Downpayment and/or Closing Cost Assistance
In addition to the ACCESS Modification Program, some applicants may qualify for downpayment and/or closing cost assistance through the HOMEstead or the ACCESS Downpayment and Closing Cost Assistance loan programs.
If HOMEstead assistance is used in conjunction with the ACCESS Modification Program, the types of modifications will be limited to those that will not disturb any painted surfaces, unless the home was built after January 1, 1978. For homes built prior to 1978 where the modifications may disturb painted surfaces, the borrower cannot use HOMEstead assistance but may use the ACCESS assistance if needed and if eligible.
Rates and Fees
ACCESS mortgage loans are interest free and have no fees.
- Not less than $1,000 and no more than $10,000. Funds will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- ACCESS Home Modification loans are available in addition to any downpayment and/or closing cost assistance or HOMEstead funds for which the applicants may qualify. These additional mortgages will NOT be factored into maximum loan-to-value financing limitations.
- This is a non-interest bearing loan with no monthly payment. The loan becomes due and payable upon sale, transfer, or non-owner occupancy of the property.
Applicants are responsible for determining what accessible modifications are required. Most Local Centers for Independent Living and Area Agencies on Aging can provide technical assistance in making this determination. The applicant is to provide the lender with a proposal completed by a general contractor of choice, detailing the modification improvements that will be needed to make the home accessible.
Upon completion of your application, the lender will perform a preliminary review of the construction proposal submitted by the applicant, which includes the specifications, cost estimates, and drawings of the work to be completed. A contract, signed by the applicant and the contractor, is required before the lender can send the loan package to PHFA for final approval. (NOTE: The contract should include a clause stating that its implementation is contingent upon approval of the mortgage loan).
At closing, PHFA will hold the ACCESS Home Modification funds in an escrow account, pending completion of the modifications. Should there be an increase in costs during the modification/improvement period which takes the cost of the project over the amount approved, the borrower must fund the amount of the increase.
PHFA will disburse the funds to the contractor with the homebuyer's written approval and secure a certificate of completion. The improvements must be completed within 90 days of the closing. All funds disbursed must be used for the accessibility modification improvements. Any unused ACCESS Home Modification Loan funds must be refunded to the Agency.
How to Apply
If you meet the conditions above, contact a PHFA participating lender to start your mortgage application. PHFA also offers homebuyers the opportunity to receive homebuyer counseling and education free of charge through one of its approved counseling agencies. We strongly encourage you to seek the assistance of a counselor before you sign a sales agreement, especially if you are a first-time buyer. Any borrower with a FICO credit score lower than 680 is required to complete a course prior to closing on their loan.