The Marlborough-based trade association announced its sponsorship of the national Home Loan Payment Relief program yesterday at a State House press conference as part of the Massachusetts Credit Union Community Hope Initiative.

The program offers qualified home buyers adjustable-rate mortgages at 1 percentage point below the market rate for three years. Subsequent adjustments are capped at 1 percent per year and 5 percent for the life of the loan. This beats some market-priced loans, which can adjust at up to 2 percent per year with a lifetime cap of 6 percent over the initial rate.

First-time home buyers who make at or less than their town’s median income level are eligible for the program. The median income in the Boston area is $57,800, according to the league.

Under the program, for example, a $240,000 mortgage would require a $56,000 yearly household income, as opposed to a $70,000 household income at standard rates, according to the league.

Down payments for the credit union loans will be no more than 3 percent, and gifts and grants will be permitted, according to the league.

“Owning a home is truly the American dream,” said Daniel Egan Jr., president of the league. “Buying a home, however, is always difficult, especially for those of modest means. This program will enable many Massachusetts residents to take the major step into home ownership.”

Marlborough-based Digital Federal Credit Union committed $50 million to the program, according to Jim Blake, vice chairman of the league. DCU officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Twelve other Massachusetts credit unions, including the Worcester Credit Union and the Chelsea-based Metropolitan Credit Union, committed another $50 million to the program.

“We call it the helper loan,” said Jane Post, senior vice president of marketing for Metropolitan Credit Union. “It’s not for everybody and is intended to give people more flexibility and options.

Post said Metropolitan, which has a Framingham branch, packages the mortgage options with other products to give consumers an option they can truly afford.

Karl “Chip” Case, an economist at Wellesley College who specializes in real estate cycles, said it’s a “tricky time” to be buying a home because prices are near all-time highs, but that the credit union program “seems like a better deal than what’s on the market.”

Blake, who is also president and CEO of Harbor Credit Union, said the Brockton-based credit union tested the program for the league. During the pilot, nurses, teachers, assembly-line workers and state employees received the lower-interest mortgages through Harbor, he said.

Nationwide, credit unions have committed $1 billion to the private program, Blake said. He expected commitments to reach $2 billion nationwide by the end of the year. He also expected more of the state’s 240 league members to commit to the program.s

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