SCHENECTADY — The pandemic-era moratorium on mortgage foreclosures has expired, prompting housing and neighborhood organization Schenectady BCNI to sound the alarm about grants of up to $50,000 available for struggling homeowners.
The foreclosure freeze against landlords behind on monthly mortgage payments was implemented for the same reason as the moratorium on evictions for tenants behind on their rent: to prevent a housing crisis from developing alongside the public health crisis affecting much of the state and the nation. .
However, by delaying crises for occupiers, the double moratorium created problems for lenders and for owners, especially small owners. In September 2021, both freezes were extended until January 15, 2022. They were no longer extended.
Helping people facing a housing crisis has long been a core mission of Better Community Neighborhoods Inc.
CEO Jennica Huff said the Homeowners Relief Fund is an ideal tool for this purpose.
New York got $540 million of a $10 billion federal allocation to prevent lockdowns or utility cuts. But it’s distributed statewide, not regionally, and it’s first come, first served, so BCNI is trying to spread the word. Grants can reach $50,000.
“So it’s an important resource but it’s very, very limited,” Huff said. “It is imperative that people enter one of more than 70 counseling agencies in the state.”
BCNI is the only HUD-certified housing counseling agency in the city, Huff said. It has assigned four advisors to the HAF process since the application portal opened on January 3.
BCNI housing counseling program manager Alexandria Carver said she had not received as many requests from HAF as she expected.
Maybe they were waiting for the moratorium on foreclosures to end, or they don’t know about the program, or they know but are intimidated, she said.
“I don’t know if people don’t even know it exists,” she said, or “if people disqualify themselves before they even apply.”
“The process is pretty simple and you can go through it in about 15 to 20 minutes,” Carver said.
All you need is a mortgage statement and photo ID.
“New York State made it this easy,” she said.
Until the end of the second week of applications, BCNI saw a range of applicants – young families and empty nests.
Many are people whose income or financial management issues go back years, for whom the COVID crisis has become a tipping point.
Using pending tax foreclosure lists, BCNI sent Housing Assistance Fund notices to 1,053 landlords.
“We’ve had a few calls from our shippers, so I guess our efforts aren’t wasted, but we want people to move,” Carver said. “The seniors are not coming as I expected.”
The first applicant to gain conditional approval for HAF with help from BCNI was a woman from Scotland who lost her job and fell months behind on her mortgage payments.
“I got laid off in March 2021 and was lucky enough to have severance for a few months,” she said.
In October, money was tight and something had to give.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said: “I didn’t think I would be unemployed for so long. I have exhausted my unemployment benefits at this point.
A complicating factor is the unavailability of childcare services. She is a single mother of an elementary school student and doesn’t want her child home alone, but she can’t find after-school care and she hasn’t found a good job that would allow her to work at home. residence.
Another complicating factor for this Scottish homeowner: she bought and repaired an abandoned house with a SONYMA mortgage, which she described as more rigid than most.
The HAF approval she received on January 11 is conditional. She must prove that she has exhausted all other options before obtaining a grant.
“So I’m still uncertain as to what will be awarded if anything is awarded.”
She said her lender had been difficult to work with, but BCNI was helping her long before HAF was available.
“As far as losing my home, I haven’t let it stress me out at this point,” she added.
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