Colombia’s Mi Casa Ya (My House Now) Assistance Program for Low-Income Homebuyers
Caitlin Quinn is a program analyst in HUD's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.
In late February 2023, Catalina Velasco, the Colombian housing minister, led a delegation of Colombian officials to Washington, DC to meet with representatives from HUD and other federal and local agencies. Minister Velasco, accompanied by Colombian Ambassador Luis Gilberto Murillo, met with HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman to discuss topics such as the Housing Choice Voucher program, federal and local strategies to address homelessness, and how both HUD and the Colombian Ministry of Housing, City, and Territory (MVCT) assist low-income homebuyers.
Minister Velasco’s trip to Washington came on the heels of a major announcement concerning MVCT’s downpayment assistance program, Mi Casa Ya (My House Now). On February 13, 2023, Minister Velasco announced that that the year’s first round of My House Now grants would soon be disbursed to 23,000 Colombian families, an announcement that triggered a wave of program applications from across the country. In addition, MVCT announced that it would modify the Mi Casa Ya program to ensure that its impact is more equitably distributed across Colombia. “Our goal is that the subsidies benefit the poorest and most vulnerable households and reach all of the country’s municipalities,” Minister Velasco said.
Mi Casa Ya is one of the largest programs that MVCT administers. Since its launch in 2015, the program’s impact has been concentrated in just three Colombian cities: Cali, Barranquilla, and Bogotá. However, under President Gustavo Petro, who took office in August 2022, MVCT made clear that the program would undergo changes to reach a more geographically diverse swath of the country. In addition, Minister Velasco has suggested that in the future, people could use My House Now subsidies to purchase more structurally diverse housing, such as houses on stilts and traditional indigenous homes.
Eligibility for Mi Casa Ya depends on three criteria. First, applicants cannot have previously received government housing assistance. Second, they must not currently own a home in Colombia. Finally, they must fall below a certain economic vulnerability threshold on the Sisbén, a proxy means test index that the Colombian government uses to determine eligibility for social programs. (Mi Casa Ya applies different Sisbén cutoffs to urban and rural families.) Applicants from rural areas and small municipalities receive priority in the application process, reflecting MVCT’s commitment to expanding the program’s geographic impact across Colombia.
Mi Casa Ya provides two benefits to low-income homebuyers. Grantees receive a downpayment subsidy that varies in size depending on the household’s Sisbén group. In addition, the program subsidizes grantees’ interest payments for the first 7 years of loan payments on their home. Families who qualify for Mi Casa Ya assistance receive both types of benefits. In this way, the program helps low-income families shoulder the ongoing costs of homeownership in addition to the upfront cost of a downpayment.
“Mi Casa Ya is the Ministry’s most important program,” Minister Velasco said. “It is the instrument through which we direct subsidy resources to families who have spent years cultivating this dream.”