Starting this week, $30 million in housing assistance will be offered to those affected by Covid-19, Governor Phil Scott, the Dept. of Housing and Community Development, the Vermont State Housing Authority and the Vermont State Housing Finance Agency announced, Friday, July 10. The programs, first proposed by the administration and amended and passed by the Legislature, utilize federal CARES Act funding to provide relief for those tenants unable to pay rent, landlords suffering from a loss of rent payments and those lower income homeowners needing assistance in paying their mortgages.
“Landlords, renters, homeowners and those experiencing homelessness have all been impacted by this virus and need assistance, which is why we’ve worked closely with the Legislature to provide this relief,” said Gov. Scott. “As we continue to fight this virus, keep Vermonters safe and restart our economy, we know our recovery starts with everyone having a safe and secure place to call home.”
Both the rental and the mortgage relief programs started Monday, July 13.
The Vermont State Housing Authority, an agency that manages federal rental assistance programs statewide, will administer the $25 million rental assistance program.
The Vermont Housing Finance Agency, a state-chartered nonprofit that finances affordable housing statewide, will administer the $5 million mortgage assistance payments, providing some relief to lower income homeowners who could otherwise face foreclosure.
“We are proud to be working with these partners to provide this assistance and thankful for their collaboration in getting these programs together so quickly to aid Vermonters in need,” said DHCD Commissioner Josh Hanford. “This is a great first step and we will continue to work with our partners to create programs that ensure Vermonters get the housing assistance they need.”
These programs represent the first $30 million of the total $85 million allocated to address housing needs in H.966.
The mortgage assistance program will provide up to three monthly mortgage payments directly to the servicer of the mortgage with a goal of preventing future foreclosure.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March, Joy and Eryk Whitehouse of Barre learned first-hand how dependent housing is on wages. When Vermont’s “Stay Home/Stay Safe” orders were issued, the restaurant where they both worked as managers shut down and the Whitehouses temporarily lost their jobs.
“We started frantically looking at our options as soon as the restaurant closed down,” Joy Whitehouse explained. “I have never not been able to pay my mortgage before this. Our home is the only one my children have ever known, and we were really worried about what we would do,” she continued.
Like the Whitehouse family, it is estimated that 10% of mortgage holders have faced an economic hardship due to Covid and requested forbearance from their servicer. As of June 27, more than 44,000 Vermont workers have filed for unemployment benefits—eight times as many as in the beginning of March.
“Vermont homeowners who were laid off or are working reduced hours may have fallen behind on monthly mortgage payments and are trying to identify their options before the foreclosure moratorium expires,” remarked Eric Hoffman, VHFA’s manager of business development, who previously worked as a foreclosure intervention counselor. “The mortgage assistance program will be a great way for many Vermonters to catch up and cover some of their missed payments,” Hoffman added.
Homeowners must meet certain requirements to be eligible for mortgage assistance through the program. Only mortgages for homes used as primary residences, those started before March 1, 2020 and those held by Vermonters who meet income limits (households with incomes in the last 90 days of $15,000 or less) and have missed at least two payments will be considered. VHFA will accept applications until Aug. 31, 2020. Due to the limited funding available, VHFA will prioritize those with the lowest income and that are most at risk of foreclosure. There is no assurance that any individual application will be funded.
“These funds will fill an urgent need to help homeowners across the state safely stay in their homes, even if the pandemic causes them to lose income,” said Maura Collins, Vermont housing finance agency’s executive director. “VHFA is applying the full force of its decades of experience working with mortgage servicers and homeowners to implementing this program.”
Information and application materials are available at vhfa.org/map. A mortgage assistance program information hotline is open 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 1-800-889-2047.
For more information on all programs visit accd.vermont.gov.