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Program offers SC frontline workers $12K if buying first home

SC Housing's Palmetto Heroes Program is giving out $50 million to eligible essential employees who are looking to become a home buyer.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Frontline workers in South Carolina looking to buy their first home are getting a financial boost.

To give back to those who helped us so much this past year, SC Housing is setting aside $50 million to help essential employees purchase a place to live.

News 19 learned more about the program and who is eligible.

"It's kind of crazy to be buying a home during a pandemic," said Megan Edwards, a first-time homebuyer. 

Megan and her husband, Matt, are moving to Fort Jackson from Hope Mills, NC.

"Matt got orders to go to Fort Jackson to become a drill sergeant," said Megan. "We decided to buy a home because rent there is more than a mortgage payment would be, a lot more actually, to get a decent home - to rent it."

Through their realtor, they discovered SC Housing's annual Palmetto Heroes Program dedicated to frontline employees.

"Heroes like teachers, licensed medical professionals, firefighters, police officers, active duty military and veterans," said Chris Winston, Spokesman for SC Housing.

The program has two parts.

"A fixed rate 30-year mortgage at 2.75% which is historically low...and $12,000 in forgivable down payment assistance which can go towards closing costs or a down payment on the home," said Winston.

To be eligible:

  • You must meet income requirements, which vary by county and the number of people living in your home
  • The home must be $300,000 or less
  • You must meet the definition of a first-time homebuyer

"In some counties, it just means that you don't own a home right now when you purchase this home," Winston explained. "In other counties, it means you can't have owned a home for the past three years."

Winston says a lot of our frontline employees have good jobs that allow them to afford the monthly payments, but many may not have had the ability to set aside thousands of dollars for a down payment or closing costs.

"When [Megan] was telling me all of the parameters that you must meet to qualify, we went through it number by number and when we got to the end we were like, 'I think we qualify for this!'" said Matt, a Staff Sergeant in the Army.

Lenders tell News 19, although interest rates are slowly going up, the Edwards family still found a great deal.

"Not only do they get the grant, they get a reduced rate too," said Lauren Foster, Senior Loan Officer for Guild Mortgage. "It's still historically low. On average they're in the low 3's and this program was a 2.75% on Friday. So we are very excited for them."

Foster says program recipients can use the benefits with the combination of conventional, USDA, FHA and VA financing.

"You can get reimbursed for things like your home inspection, your pest inspection, any type of inspections that go into buying the home as well," she said.

The Edwards found out they are pre-approved for the Palmetto Heroes Program. 

"We have maybe an extra cushion on top of what we already have saved to put towards closing costs and our down payment," said Megan. "It makes it seem much less scary and much more doable, frankly."

Their next step is finding their dream home.

"It seems like a blessing, just seems like such a relief that we'll be able to have our own place," said Matt. "A safe place that we can create for our children to grow up."

The program started Thursday and operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. Winston says the funds usually last a few months.

SC Housing expects to help hundreds of families this year. In fact, during the program's 14 years, they've helped more than 1,500 homeowners buy a house.

This year's $50 million set aside for the program honors the 50th anniversary of SC Housing.

To see if you qualify, head to SC Housing's website or you can call them at 800-432-5007.

While this program recognizes frontline workers, SC Housing has more home ownership programs that give thousands of dollars in down payment assistance.