Article City Forum Amanda Rose

California Housing Finance Agency’s HELP Boosts Affordable Housing

Amanda Rose is CalHFA HELP program manager and can be reached at (916) 445-9313; e-mail:

Cities and other local government entities in California are getting a helping hand to create and preserve affordable housing through an innovative partnership with the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA).

CalHFA’s Housing Enabled by Local Partnerships (HELP) program offers a 3 percent interest rate loan to local governments for their affordable housing activities and priorities that promote rental housing or homeownership.

“The HELP program is a perfect example of success through a team effort, ”said CalHFA Executive Director Theresa Parker. “When you combine local government efforts and enthusiasm with CalHFA’s resources and commitment, the goals of providing affordable housing can be fulfilled.”

HELP funds provide flexibility for the local agency in determining the specific housing activity and using the funds to acquire, develop, rehabilitate or preserve affordable rental or owner-occupied housing.

For the past 30 years, CalHFA has been making affordable housing opportunities available to a wide range of eligible renters and first-time homebuyers through a variety of mortgage loan programs, down payment assistance plans, and other products and programs. Chartered in 1975 as the state’s affordable housing bank, CalHFA has invested more than $16 billion in non-taxpayer funds to help over 170,000 California families live in homes of their own or rentals they can afford.

Working With Local Communities

The HELP program assists local agencies in identifying their unmet housing needs and designing housing programs that target their community’s priorities. This approach enables the local agency to better match local housing policy and accountability with project performance. Increasingly, HELP is being used to facilitate affordable housing within more targeted, comprehensive local programs for neighborhood revitalization and economic development.

“CalHFA is proud to have partnered with nearly 100 local government agencies, providing $140 million in financing for close to 18,000 housing units since the program’s inception in 1999,” Parker said. “These local government agencies share our goal of creating and preserving affordable housing for their residents. Through the HELP program, local government agencies can direct funds to create safe, decent and affordable housing where it’s needed most.”

Funding Available in Spring 2006 

In 2006, the HELP program will be offering approximately $10 million in low-interest loans to California cities, counties, housing authorities, redevelopment agencies and community development commissions to assist with the acquisition, development, rehabilitation or preservation of affordable rental or ownership housing. The program announcement and applications will be available this spring.

Proposals are limited to a maximum request of $1.5 million and are competitively evaluated in six areas: affordability; program cost efficiency; maximization of benefits; implementation readiness; relative resource impact and comprehensiveness of services; support structure; and design.

HELP funds must be used to directly provide affordable housing units that remain affordable for at least 10 years and may be used for a variety of projects, such as single-family homeownership development programs, and senior and multifamily rental housing. 

“When CalHFA and local governments combine vision and resources for affordable housing, it’s the people of California who truly benefit,” Parker said.

For more information and a complete description of CalHFA’s homeownership, multifamily, mortgage insurance and HELP programs, visit or call (800) 789-2432.

This article appears in the March 2006 issue of Western City
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