Homebuyer Empowerment Loan Program (HELP)

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 in the Bay Area, 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.

Homebuyer Empowerment Loan Program is here to help!

How It Helps

HELP assists first time homebuyers with incomes slightly higher than Empower Homebuyers SCC and other down payment assistance programs by allowing a middle-income first-time homebuyers to borrow up to 10% of a home’s purchase price – which means an additional 10% from a first-time homebuyer would reach a down payment of 20%.

No matter the amount borrowed, there are no monthly payments or interest with a HELP 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 10% of the purchase price, you will share 10% 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 HELP to borrow 10% ($60,000) for the down payment, and the home is later sold for $800,000, you would owe $80,000 – $60,000 plus $20,000 (10% of the $200,000 appreciation).

Notifications to Clients About No In-Person Meetings

Housing Trust Silicon Valley is not open to the public or accepting walk-in visits at this time. We are available to communicate with you via phone and email and kindly ask to please be patient with our response times. Below is our contact information:

Phone:           408-703-3837 ext. 301

Email:             EmpowerHomebuyersSCC@housingtrustsv.org

How to apply

    Get Qualified

  1. Complete Online Interest Form

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

    See Online Interest 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

    Check out the list of approved homebuyer education providers

  3. Receive pre-approval from a Participating Lender

    Housing Trust works with all approved 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 or the cities of Menlo Park or East Palo Alto
  • You must owner occupy the home
  • You have pre-approval from an approved lender (done prior to submitting application)
  • You have completed a HUD-certified 8 Hour Homebuyer Education class through the designated agency
  • You can put down a minimum of 3% of a home’s purchase price

The gross household income, including all adult household members, must not exceed 140% of the Area Median Income

Maximum Gross Household Income Limits by Household Size

Household Size12345678
Income Limit   $180,600   $206,430   $232,190   $258,020   $278,670   $299,320   $319,970   $340,620

California Department of Housing and Community Development, 140% of Area Median Income (updated as of May 9, 2024)

Program Requirements

  • Purchase price does not exceed $800,000
  • Your first mortgage must be 30-year fixed
  • Shared Appreciation: Percentage Share of Appreciation based on percentage of original HELP principal loan amount to the original purchase price of the home
  • Maximum loan amount: Up to 10% of the purchase price

Additional Program Resources