Empower Homebuyers SCC

We believe communities prosper when people can own a home in places that matter to them.

With housing costs so high, many of our friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors in the greater Bay Area cannot afford to purchase a home here, because securing a down payment is out of reach. In San Jose for example, a 20% down payment for a median home is almost always more than enough money to purchase a home outright in many parts of the country. When greater Bay Area workers cannot secure homeownership, we all lose out – on diversity, a skilled, dynamic workforce, and community.

Empower Homebuyers SCC is here to help with down payment assistance. Funded by the 2016 Measure A Affordable Housing Bond, Empower Homebuyers SCC assists low to moderate income people purchase homes in Santa Clara County – including employees at nonprofit organizations, teachers, healthcare professionals, County employees and so many others.

New to down payment assistance? Watch this 30 minute video

How It Helps

Empower Homebuyers is a down payment assistance loan for first-time homebuyers in Santa Clara County. If a homebuyer has at least 3% of a home’s purchase price saved up, an Empower loan can provide 17% of the price – enabling a down payment of 20% on a home with a sale price of up to $1,100,000.

No matter the amount borrowed, there are no monthly payments or interest with an Empower Homebuyers loan. Instead, when the loan matures, you decide to sell or you refinance your mortgage, you repay the original amount of your loan plus a share of the appreciation of your home.

You will share your appreciation in equal proportion to the amount you borrowed. This means if your loan was 17% of the purchase price, you will share 17% of the appreciation and the rest of the equity that builds up on your home over time is yours. For instance, if you buy a house for $600,000 and use Empower to borrow 17% ($102,000) for the down payment, and the home is later sold for $800,000, you would owe a total of $136,000 (the original loan amount of $102,000, plus $34,000/17% of the $200,000 appreciation).

Notifications to Clients About No In-Person Meetings

Out of an abundance of caution, Housing Trust Silicon Valley will not be taking in-person meetings at this time. Following guidance by the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, we are doing our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by minimizing close contact with people. We will be available to communicate with you via phone and email… read more here

How To Apply

    Get Qualified

  1. Complete Online Interest Form

    Housing Trust staff will contact you within 3 business days to begin pre-qualification.

    Fill out form

  2. Attend Homebuyer Education

    All borrowers (including non-borrowing spouses) must attend a HUD-certified Homebuyer Education through an in-person or online class from a designated agency

    Project Sentinel 

  3. Receive pre-approval from a Participating Lender

    Housing Trust works with all approved California-licensed lenders

  4. Eligibility Application

    With lender pre-approval, complete a Program Eligibility Application and contact Housing Trust staff for an appointment

    Find a Property

  1. Shop for a home!

    After you receive your program eligibility approval letter.

    Finalize Loan and Complete Purchase

  1. Submit a Purchase Loan Application

    Once your purchase sales agreement has been ratified, work with your lender to submit a Purchase Loan Application.

  2. Meet for a Counseling Session

    Once approved, meet with Housing Trust for 1 on 1 counseling session

  3. Close on your new home, move in and enjoy!


  • You are a first-time homebuyer buying a primary residence in Santa Clara County
  • You can put down a minimum of 3% of a home’s purchase price
  • You must owner occupy the home
  • You have pre-approval from an approved California-licensed lender (done prior to submitting application)
  • You have completed a HUD-certified 8 Hour Homebuyer Education class through the designated agency
  • The gross household income, including all adult household members, must not exceed 120% of the Area Median Income

Maximum Gross Household Income Limits by Household Size

Household Size12345678
Income Limit   $141,550   $161,750   $182,000   $202,200   $218,400   $234,550   $250,750   $266,900

California Department of Housing and Community Development, 120% of Area Median Income (updated as of May 13, 2022)

Program Requirements

  • Purchase price does not exceed $1,100,000
  • Your first mortgage must be 30-year fixed
  • Shared Appreciation: Share of Appreciation, capped for the first ten years of the term of the loan. After ten years, no longer capped. Percentage Share of Appreciation based on percentage of Original Empower Homebuyers SCC principal loan amount to the original purchase price of the home
  • Maximum loan amount: Up to 17% of the purchase price

Additional Program Resources