Cedar Rapids looking for people to take advantage of first time homebuyer program

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CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (KCRG) - The City of Cedar Rapids is offering free money to first time home buyers.

People buying their first house can get up to $5,000 in grant money. The grant can be forgiven after a person lives there for five years.

The city says people need to apply fast. Only 40 people or families will get approved for the grant.

On Friday, they had 27 people who had signed up for the program. That means people can still be approved for the thousands of dollars the city is giving away. Leaders want taxpayers to know that the program is worth it.

Andrew and Breanne Robinson took advantage of the program. They bought a home two years to get more space with the birth of their first child.

House hunting was hard when they were on a tight budget--$105,000 was their limit.

They looked at more than 40 houses before getting the keys to a three bedroom, one bathroom house.

"There was a lot in our price range, but not a lot that was really move-in ready,” said Breanne Robinson. “So yeah this home had been flipped. An investor bought it and fixed it up."

Getting the $5,000 from the city made a huge difference. It was their down payment and it dropped their monthly mortgage cost.

"At the time, Andrew was still in school and I knew I probably would want to stay home at least part-time with our kids in the future,” said Breanne. “So we wanted a mortgage we could pay off one income."

The city has been doing the program since 2008. Leaders say they noticed some people needed an extra boost to close on a house. It has benefits for the homebuyer.

"Just building equity,” said Housing Services Manager with the city of Cedar Rapids Sara Buck. “So I mean you know you think about what you have by retirement just building equity in a home rather than just paying rent to a landlord."

It also has a benefit for the city. The money they invest in the program can help keep people from moving. That's what it did for the Robinsons.

"We had looked at some of the surrounding communities, but the grant was one reason why we chose Cedar Rapids,” said Breanne. “It's a great incentive."

There are income restrictions, and people must meet debt and mortgage requirements. Click here for more information on the program.