By Madeleine Wright

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — June is National Homeownership Month. It’s a time to celebrate the value of owning a home. But with the rising cost of rent amid the pandemic, it’s getting harder for folks to save up to buy a home.

The Philly First Home program started in 2019 with about $24 million available for first-time homebuyers, but by the next year, all the money ran out.

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Last month, the city announced it secured $14 million in additional funding to bring the program back to life. Eyewitness News spoke with a resident who says the program turned his dream of owning a home into reality.

Philadelphia resident Arthur Marks recalls all the overtime he worked to save up for a home.

“I worked seven days a week, sometimes 16 hours a day,” Marks said.

But he still couldn’t come up with enough money for a down payment and closing costs.

Then, his realtor told him about Philly First Home, a program that provides first-time homebuyers up to $10,000, or 6% of the purchase price of the home, whichever’s less.

“Besides myself and my wife, we have six children,” Marks said. “My wife is disabled, so I’m the only one who has an income. So it helped us tremendously.”

Now his family lives in a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house.

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Marks is one of 27,000 people who received a grant from the program from 2019 to 2020.

City Councilmember Cherelle Parker supports the program.

“The most affordable home is the one that you own and the one that you live in,” Parker said.

Philly First Home recipients must be first-time homebuyers, buying a home in Philadelphia and meet income requirements and other guidelines.

“58% percent of the participants in this program, they were Black, 26% Hispanic,” Parker said. “And so Black and Brown people who often have been traditionally eliminated from the opportunity, eliminated from the ability to own, so that they can build generational wealth in their families, they will now have access to that opportunity from this program.”

Bringing people like Marks one step closer to the American dream.

“It’s the absolute best feeling in the world,” Marks said. “No place like home.”

Funding for the program comes from the city’s neighborhood preservation initiative.

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The city is working to secure more funding to keep the program alive.

Madeleine Wright