Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Vermont State Housing Authority and the Vermont State Housing Finance Agency today announced $30 million in housing assistance to those affected by COVID-19.
“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 Governor 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.”
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.
Vermont’s new Mortgage Assistance Program will help low-income homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage and are facing economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program will provide up to three monthly mortgage payments directly to the servicer of the mortgage with a goal of preventing future foreclosure.
Administered by Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), with $5 million of the funding provided to Vermont through the federal CARES Act, the program is available to any homeowner who meets the eligibility criteria, and is not just for VHFA borrowers.
A second, $25 million program also beginning Monday will assist landlords and tenants.
The Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA) Rental Housing Stabilization Program (RHSP) is for funding landlords on behalf of tenants in need of rental arrearage assistance. This program will provide the VSHA Payment Standard or the actual amount due for the month(s) being claimed, whichever is less, per household at a single unit who meet eligibility criteria.
The goal of this program is to prevent homelessness and to provide housing stability.
Similarly, the money for the home mortgage program goes through the lenders, to pay the pandemic-caused forbearance lenders have provided for mortgagees.
“It’s critical that we keep moving forward and fighting this virus, and I understand recovery starts with everyone having a safe and secure place to call home,” Scott said. “I’m pleased to see the launch of the Mortgage Assistance Program, which will be an important resource for keeping Vermonters in their homes.”
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 and have missed at least two payments will be considered. VHFA will accept applications until August 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.”
The Mortgage Assistance Program was created by the Vermont Legislature with the passage of H.966, an act relating to COVID-19 funding and assistance for broadband, connectivity, housing and economic relief. In addition to the Mortgage Assistance Program, the act dedicated funding for a variety of legal and counseling services, housing and facilities, eviction protection, rental assistance and other housing supports for Vermonters facing economic hardship totaling $62 million.
Governor Scott signed the bill on July 2, 2020.
Mortgages eligible for assistance through the new program are not limited to those made through VHFA’s standard programs. Information and application materials are available on VHFA’s website at www.vhfa.org/map. A Mortgage Assistance Program information hotline is open 9 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday, at 1-800-889-2047.
VHFA is a non-profit agency created in 1974 by the Vermont Legislature to finance and promote affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Since its inception, the Agency has helped approximately 29,000 Vermont households with affordable mortgages and financed the development of approximately 8,800 affordable rental apartments.
The Vermont State Housing Authority, an agency that manages federal rental assistance programs statewide, will provide the applications and additional program eligibility requirements, and answers to FAQs will be available on Monday, July 13 at www.vsha.org/rental-housing-stabilization-program/.
Knowing the need is great and the demand for this assistance will be high, technical assistance has been made available through the Vermont Landlord Association to help landlords across the state access this rental assistance program and through Vermont Legal Aid to help tenants and homeowners access these funds.
“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.
More information on these programs will be available at accd.vermont.gov.
The ongoing, permanent state housing assistance also continues to be in place to support renters, landlords and mortgage holders.
Source: BURLINGTON, VT - Vermont Housing Finance Agency 7.10.2020