OAKLAND -- Wells Fargo is hoping a new $5 million program will help hundreds of prospective home buyers in the East Bay come up with the thousands of dollars they typically need to make a down payment on a home, the bank said Tuesday.
The banking giant is offering what it calls the CityLIFT program. It intends to help home purchasers in Oakland, Fremont, Hayward, Concord, Antioch, Bay Point, Brentwood, Pittsburg and Richmond, said Jim Foley, regional president for Wells Fargo's Greater East Bay region, which consists primarily of the East Bay and South Bay.
"This is the first time we are offering the program in the Bay Area," Foley said.
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo had previously instituted CityLIFT programs in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tampa.
In the upcoming Bay Area program, Wells will provide qualified buyers with $20,000 for a down payment. The bank also will provide a viewing center so buyers can undertake virtual tours of homes they might seek.
"We are taking a regional approach for the first time by offering CityLIFT in several different cities at the same time," Foley said. "We will be able to move money out faster. We can touch more buyers."
The effort could address a financing gap that many consumers face in a tough economy that has chewed up the balance sheets of a number of Bay Area residents.
Wells anticipates that it will be able to assist about 250 home buyers through the East Bay program.
In prior programs, Wells Fargo helped 582 families complete home purchases in the other cities. Another 312 potential home owners were in the closing stages of completing residential purchases, the bank said.
Wells will use its $20,000 in cash as a "silent second loan," effectively a grant for the buyers. The prospective owners also must obtain outside financing and complete the purchases in about 60 days. Over time, Wells Fargo will forgive the entire grant in stages. After five years, so long as the primary loan is current, the home owners will have no obligation to repay any of the $20,000.
"We may not want to use the term free money," Foley said. "But it is free money."
The program is a joint venture of Wells Fargo, county and city officials in the East Bay, NeighborWorks America and the Unity Council.
"Alameda and Contra Costa counties have a great inventory of homes and attractive amenities for prospective homeowners in the East Bay," Gilda Gonzales, chief executive officer of the Unity Council, said in a prepared release. "These grants will help people get over the tremendous financial hurdle of finding funds for a down payment."
Wells Fargo has scheduled a free home buyer workshop in Oakland at the city's convention center downtown. The workshops will be held on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8. Both days, the hours will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Homeowners should register at www.wellsfargo.com/citylift and can call 1-866-802-0456 to learn more.
The workshops will help walk people through the process of buying a home in the program, said Grace Mejia, regional diverse segment manager for Wells Fargo.
"We are looking for people in hard hit and distressed areas," Mejia said.
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.