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Chenoa Fund Vs. Hometown Heroes Program - Which Is Better For You?

When considering homeownership, potential buyers often explore various financial assistance programs to make the process easier.

Two of these programs are the Chenoa Fund and the Hometown Heroes Program. Both offer unique benefits and have specific requirements.

This article aims to provide an objective comparison of these two programs, breaking down their features and criteria.

By understanding the differences and similarities, prospective homeowners can make an informed decision about which program might be the most suitable for their needs.




Florida Hometown Heroes Program Overview

The Florida Hometown Heroes Program is a state initiative tailored to assist working individuals in Florida to procure homes by offering down payment assistance.

A common misconception is that the program is solely for frontline heroes; however, it's open to all Floridians who are gainfully employed.

For the fiscal year of 2023-2024, there have been significant updates to this program. The maximum assistance for down payments has been raised from $25,000 to a generous $35,000.

Alongside this increment, the program has received an additional $100 million in funding to further assist prospective homeowners.

Though there is some uncertainty surrounding the specifics of the 2024 funding allocation, it's expected that clarity will be provided by early summer 2024.


Program Requirements

For those considering this program, it's essential to understand the eligibility criteria:

  • First-Time Homebuyer Status - The applicant shouldn't have owned a primary residence in the past three years. This rule ensures that the assistance is given to those new to the home-buying process.

  • Minimum Credit Score - A credit score is an essential metric in evaluating one's financial responsibility. For this program, an applicant needs to have a score of at least 640.

  • Income Restrictions - Applicants must earn below 150% of their county's median income, as calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This ensures the program assists those in moderate to low-income brackets.

  • Employment Criteria - Only those employed by Florida-based businesses are eligible.

  • Location of the Home - There's a stipulation that the purchased home must be in the community where the applicant works. This requirement strengthens the bond between residents and their local communities.

While meeting these criteria is pivotal, it doesn't assure acceptance due to potential funding constraints.


Program Changes Effective July 1st, 2023

Starting July 1st, 2023, the Florida Hometown Heroes Program is witnessing some notable alterations:

  • Increased Down Payment Assistance - From the prior $25,000 limit, the program will now offer up to $35,000, aiding more Floridians in securing their homes.

  • Expanded Eligibility - No longer limited to frontline workers, all employed Floridians can now benefit.

  • Additional Funds - An infusion of an extra $100 million demonstrates Florida's commitment to aiding its citizens in realizing their homeownership dreams.

Home loan negotiation between a lender and borrower


Chenoa Fund Program Overview

The Chenoa Fund is a distinctive initiative designed to provide homebuyers with versatile down payment assistance options.

These options are crafted to cater to a variety of financial circumstances, ensuring homebuyers can choose a program that aligns best with their needs.

Below, we delve into the four primary program choices and their intricacies.


Program Options


3.5% Repayable

  • Down Payment Assistance - Grants a 3.5% assistance toward the down payment.

  • Terms - Borrowers are expected to repay the loan. Typically, the repayment conditions are favorable, featuring low interest rates over a defined period.

  • Ideal For - Individuals who foresee a consistent financial path and are comfortable with repaying the assistance incrementally.

3.5% Forgivable

  • Down Payment Assistance - Also offers a 3.5% assistance for down payments.

  • Terms - A fraction or even the entirety of this loan may be forgiven over time, assuming the borrower fulfills certain conditions, such as maintaining the home as their primary residence.

  • Ideal For - Buyers uncertain about long-term financial commitments or those committed to residing in the purchased home for an extended period.

5% Repayable

  • Down Payment Assistance - A more substantial 5% assistance is provided.

  • Terms - Similar to the 3.5% repayable option, this assistance is to be repaid. The larger amount caters to homes that may demand higher down payments, with the repayment terms remaining amicable.

  • Ideal For - Individuals eyeing properties slightly above average market prices who are confident in their repayment capacity.

5% Forgivable

  • Down Payment Assistance - A 5% assistance is made available.

  • Terms - With its forgivable nature, part or all of the loan might be pardoned after a certain duration, contingent on the borrower meeting set criteria.

  • Ideal For - Buyers focused on pricier homes but desiring flexibility in down payment assistance repayments.

Eligibility for the Chenoa Fund

To streamline the homeownership journey, it's pivotal to discern the qualifying criteria for the Chenoa Fund:

  • Credit Score - A fundamental criterion, an applicant must possess a minimum credit score of 600.

  • Income Limits - Ensuring the Fund aids those in genuine need, an income ceiling is established, typically benchmarked against the median income of a given area.

  • FHA Mortgage Qualification - Potential beneficiaries must first qualify for an FHA Loan before they can tap into the Chenoa Fund's down payment assistance.

  • Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI) - Beyond just earnings, it's vital to weigh debts. A specific maximum DTI ratio is stipulated to ensure beneficiaries maintain a balanced financial status.

  • Primary Residence Stipulation - The purchased property should serve as the primary dwelling of the beneficiary, underscoring the program's aim of promoting homeownership over real estate investment.

Chenoa Fund & FHA Loans

A fundamental aspect of the Chenoa Fund is its alignment with FHA loans.

FHA loans, guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, appeal to many first-time buyers due to their lenient credit stipulations and manageable down payments compared to conventional loans.

The Chenoa Fund, in essence, complements the FHA structure, making homeownership more attainable for a broader audience.


Comparison - Florida Hometown Heroes Program vs. Chenoa Fund Program

Both the Florida Hometown Heroes Program and the Chenoa Fund Program are initiatives designed to make homeownership more attainable by providing down payment assistance to potential homeowners.

While they share this core objective, there are key differences and similarities between the two.


Eligibility Criteria


Credit Score

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - Requires a minimum credit score of 640.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - A minimum credit score of 600 is required.

Income Restrictions

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - Applicants must earn less than 150% of their county's median income as per HUD.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - An income cap exists, generally in relation to the median income of the respective locality.

First-Time Homebuyer Status

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - Restricted to those who haven’t owned a primary residence in the past three years.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - There is no explicit mention of this requirement in the provided information.

Employment Criteria

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - Only individuals employed by Florida-based businesses qualify.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - No specific employment criteria mentioned.

Location Stipulation

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - The purchased property must be in the community where the applicant works.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - There’s no stipulated condition about the location of the home relative to the buyer's workplace.

Down Payment Assistance


Amount of Assistance

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - Up to $35,000 (increased from $25,000).

  • Chenoa Fund Program - Offers either 3.5% or 5% of the down payment, repayable or forgivable.

Terms of Repayment

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - Specific terms of repayment or potential forgiveness are not detailed in the provided overview.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - Terms vary depending on the option chosen, with possibilities of complete loan forgiveness or required repayment with favorable conditions.

Funding and Expansion

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - Received an additional $100 million in funding for 2023-2024 and expanded its eligibility from just frontline heroes to all employed Floridians.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - The program's funding details are not provided, but it offers a range of options to cater to diverse financial circumstances.

Loan Compatibility

  • Florida Hometown Heroes Program - There's no indication that this program is tied to any specific type of primary loan.

  • Chenoa Fund Program - Exclusively compatible with FHA loans, underscoring its alignment with the Federal Housing Administration's mission to facilitate homeownership among first-time buyers and those with limited financial means.

Both the Florida Hometown Heroes Program and the Chenoa Fund Program offer substantial benefits, but their impact and suitability largely depend on the specific circumstances and needs of the potential homeowner.


Florida Hometown Heroes Program is notably generous in the amount of down payment assistance it provides – up to $35,000.

This considerable sum might be more impactful for individuals who are looking at properties in areas where real estate prices are higher.

The program's focus on community cohesion, evident in its stipulation for homeowners to buy within their work community, makes it an ideal choice for those committed to building a life in their current locale.

The fact that this program has expanded its eligibility to all employed Floridians also broadens its reach, making it particularly beneficial for residents of Florida who align with its criteria.

However, one significant limitation is the requirement of being employed by a Florida-based business, potentially excluding remote workers or those employed by out-of-state entities.


Chenoa Fund Program, on the other hand, offers versatility with its four primary down payment assistance options. This program’s design appears to prioritize flexibility, catering to a broader range of financial circumstances.

While the absolute monetary assistance might be lower than the Florida program (given it's a percentage of the down payment), its compatibility with FHA loans makes it highly appealing for first-time buyers or those with limited financial means.

The possibility of loan forgiveness adds another layer of appeal, particularly for those uncertain about their long-term financial outlook.


To conclude, the better program largely hinges on individual circumstances:

  • For employed Floridians, especially those seeking substantial down payment assistance and willing to commit to a specific community, the Florida Hometown Heroes Program is hard to surpass.

  • Conversely, first-time homebuyers or those looking for flexible repayment options paired with FHA loans might find the Chenoa Fund Program more aligned with their needs.

Lower Down Payment Alternative Choices

If you want to buy a home but don't have a lot of money for the down payment, there are several loan options you can consider:


FHA Loans

  • These are loans supported by the government. Even if you don't have a lot of money saved or a high credit score, you might be able to get this loan.

  • You only need a small down payment, usually 3.5%.

  • One thing to remember - you'll have to pay for insurance which protects the bank in case you can't pay the loan.

USDA Loans

  • These loans are for people who want to buy homes in the countryside or small towns.

  • A big plus - you might not need any down payment!

  • There are two main types of USDA loans. One is more common, and the other is for people with lower incomes.

VA Loans

  • If you served in the military, you might be eligible for a VA loan.

  • Big benefit - no down payment needed!

  • Plus, you don't have to pay for a type of insurance that most other loans need.

  • There is a one-time fee, but this loan can save a lot of money for military folks.

HomeReady by Fannie Mae

  • This loan is for people with not a lot of money and maybe a different type of job.

  • You only need a small down payment, and it can come from different places like gifts or other family members.

  • There's a class you need to take online to help you be a smart homeowner.

Conventional 97 by Fannie Mae

  • This loan lets you buy a home with just 3% down.

  • Good news - both first-time and people who've bought homes before can use it.

  • There are some rules about what kind of house you can buy and your credit score.

Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Mortgage

  • Another loan with only a 3% down payment.

  • The money for the down payment can come from different places.

  • They even consider money from other family members living in the house.

  • First-time buyers need to take a class to learn about being a homeowner.

Each of these loans has its own benefits. It's essential to find the one that's best for your situation.


Bottom Line

Choosing a down payment assistance program is a significant decision, impacting one's home-buying journey and future financial commitments.

The Florida Hometown Heroes Program and the Chenoa Fund Program both present prospective homeowners with notable advantages, tailored to unique circumstances.

The Florida Hometown Heroes Program stands out for its considerable down payment assistance and its commitment to strengthening local Florida communities. It's a fitting choice for employed Floridians eager to plant roots near their workplace.

Conversely, the Chenoa Fund Program shines in its versatility and compatibility with FHA loans, catering especially to first-time buyers and those desiring flexible repayment terms.

Ultimately, the right program boils down to individual needs and circumstances. Prospective homeowners should evaluate their financial situation, long-term goals, and specific eligibility to make an informed decision.

Both programs, in their own right, aim to make homeownership more accessible, paving the way for a stable and secure housing future for many.

With over 50 years of mortgage industry experience, we are here to help you achieve the American dream of owning a home. We strive to provide the best education before, during, and after you buy a home. Our advice is based on experience with Phil Ganz and Team closing over One billion dollars and helping countless families.

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