More struggling California homeowners now qualify for mortgage relief, after the state on Tuesday expanded a COVID-19 program designed to help those who have fallen behind on their payments during the pandemic.
Homeowners who missed payments this year now are eligible for aid that previously was offered only to those who missed at least two payments before Dec. 27, 2021.
The money also now can be used to help with past-due property taxes, even for those whose mortgage payments are current, or for those who own their homes outright. And the state has upped the income limit to qualify — homeowners now are eligible for assistance if they make 150% or less of their county’s median income.
Under the new parameters, the California Mortgage Relief Program estimates about 13,000 Bay Area households are eligible for relief.
“So many Californians saw their household finances impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency and are continuing to grapple with the economic fallout,” Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, said during a news conference over Zoom. In fact, about 10% of California homeowners are not confident, or are only slightly confident, that they’ll make next month’s mortgage payment, she said, citing statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Homeowners who missed at least two mortgage payments before June 30, 2022 now may be eligible to have delinquent payments of up to $80,000 covered. But eligibility depends on a household’s income. In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, a family of four would have to make $214,200 or less per year to qualify. The cutoff is $279,600 in San Mateo county and San Francisco, and $252,750 in Santa Clara County.
Homeowners who are caught up on mortgage payments or who own their homes outright, but who have fallen behind on property taxes, now are eligible for up to $20,000 in relief if they’ve missed at least one tax payment before May 31, 2022. Before the expansion, only property owners who were behind on their mortgage or had a reverse mortgage were eligible for property tax help.
The news comes as inflation and record-setting gas prices have left people in the Bay Area and across the nation scrambling to afford essentials and pay their bills.
There is no deadline to apply for the program, but the state urges homeowners to get their applications in as soon as possible, either by visiting CaMortgageRelief.org or calling 888-840-2594.
The $1 billion mortgage relief program, launched on Dec. 27, has doled out more than $68 million to more than 1,900 homeowners. Funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, it’s part of a broader effort by the state to help prevent Californians from losing their housing due to financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state also temporarily stopped evictions and offered to pay rents on behalf of tenants struggling to make ends meet. Gov. Gavin Newsom last month said the rental relief program had distributed more than $5 billion, but activists complain it has been beset with delays.
The state stopped accepting applications April 1, but as of earlier this month, thousands of applications were awaiting processing. At its current pace, the state won’t get to all the pending applications by the time statewide eviction protections expire June 30, according to an analysis by the National Equity Atlas.
Ramírez said she’s pleased with the progress the rental assistance program and the mortgage relief program have made so far.
“With today’s announcement,” she said, “we are making a bold statement about California’s ability to respond to on-the-ground needs.”
Source: Orange County Register