Wells Fargo, NeighborWorks plan to further expand Lift program

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The number of homeowners participating in an expanding down payment assistance program offered by Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks could top 20,000 this year.

The program, which 1,624 homeowners participated in between February 2012 and February 2013, now has a participation rate of almost 20,000, and continues to grow. It is being offered in areas that include Los Angeles County. Registration also has started for a Lift program in the Washington, D.C., area.

Homeowners must receive mandatory homeownership counseling to receive the down payment assistance grants offered through Lift. Although loans with down payment assistance have performed poorly in some circumstances, counseling requirements tend to improve mortgage performance.

Wells has now invested more than $442 million in Lift, which was originally designed to offer down payment assistance grants to homeowners who make no more than 120% of the area median income. So far, 61% of participating homeowners have had incomes that are 80% or less of the area median income.

Grants for free in-person credit counseling were added to the program last year, when Lift was offered in Atlanta, New Mexico, Boston, Chicago, Des Moines, Mississippi, Orlando, Charlotte and Kansas City, Mo.

"Owning a home is a primary driver of economic security and the cornerstone of the American dream, yet access to affordable housing is a significant challenge in communities across the country," Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo's CEO and president, said in a press release. "Wells Fargo is proud to help people achieve and sustain homeownership through programs like NeighborhoodLIFT and in collaboration with organizations such as NeighborWorks America."

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Down payments Purchase Credit counselors First time home buyers Wells Fargo