Legislators and lobbyists in the Connecticut state Capitol on Jan. 4, 2023, the first day of the legislative session. Stephen Busemeyer / CT Mirror

In its first year, a program designed to encourage homeownership in Connecticut has helped more than 1,200 residents buy houses.

Time to Own, funded with state bonding, originally launched in June 2022. More than 1,500 people have at least started the buying process, with promises of state aid, but about 300 of those haven’t closed on a property, according to data released Friday.

The program, which offers forgivable down payment loans, has run out of money and received additional bonding a couple of times since its launch. This session, lawmakers are considering adding more money to its reserves through bonding over the next couple of years.

Housing officials and lawmakers gathered at the State Capitol on Friday to announce the updated numbers a year into the program. Officials also highlighted the efforts in the state budgeting process to build more housing, although the press conference came on the same day that Democratic leadership announced that zoning measures meant, in part, to create more affordable housing would be pulled from the House of Representatives’ housing bill.

“Housing should be a priority here in the state of Connecticut,” said Rep. Larry Butler, D-Waterbury. “It should be one of the top three things we work for.”

Early drafts of the bonding package that went through the committee process had $75 million earmarked annually for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 for Time to Own. The package is still under negotiation and may change as it goes through the legislative process.

Gov. Ned Lamont initially proposed a total of $600 million over two years to be spent on various housing programs.

“It is such an important job to make sure that our families can realize the dream of homeownership,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said Friday. “It’s a matter of equity. It’s a matter of helping our families build wealth.”

The funding is one of several measures proposed this session to make housing more affordable in Connecticut. Time to Own also targets minority borrowers, who have historically been disproportionately shut out of the homeownership market. About half of the borrowers in the program are from minority groups.

Time to Own opened in June 2022. It ran out of funds in the fall, and the State Bond Commission added more bonding dollars to its coffers in December. The allotment ran out again in February and the program reopened in April, said Marcus Smith, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. 

It’s been budgeted for $60 million total, and has about $12.4 million left.

The average loan amount reserved through Time to Own is just over $30,000, according to Connecticut Housing Finance Authority data.

“Homeownership is the largest source for wealth in this country,” said Nandini Natarajan, chief executive officer at the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, of the Time to Own program and a foreclosure prevention program at the agency. “And we’ve seen how wealth inequality along racial and ethnic ethnic lines has worsened in the years following the Great Recession. And this is just taking a small step in the direction of trying to keep that from getting worse.”

Connecticut residents who have been in the state for at least the last three years and qualify for and receive a first mortgage from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority are eligible. The Time to Own loan can be used alongside other down payment assistance programs, and people who are not first-time homebuyers can apply if they plan to purchase a home in certain areas of the state.

Applications and more eligibility information are available online.

Ginny is CT Mirror's children's issues and housing reporter and a Report for America corps member. She covers a variety of topics ranging from child welfare to affordable housing and zoning. Ginny grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas' Lemke School of Journalism in 2017. She began her career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where she covered housing, homelessness, and juvenile justice on the investigations team. Along the way Ginny was awarded a 2019 Data Fellowship through the Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California. She moved to Connecticut in 2021.