Raleigh, North Carolina — North Carolina landlords and renters could get up to $9,000 in mortgage subsidies and rental assistance through a new $200 million fund discussed in the House on Tuesday.
People could also get help with utilities through the program, which would be funded using federal coronavirus stimulus dollars. There are various income caps and a maximum of $1,000 per month over nine months.
Participants should show that they cannot make payments and are having difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeowners would only have to repay the money if they sold or refinanced their home for profit.
“It’s not a freebie,” said Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland. “This is a very targeted program to help people who need it most.”
Szoka is a major sponsor of House Bill 1200, which would create the program. The bipartisan measure has nearly 60 co-sponsors in the 120-member House. It was for discussion but not for a vote Tuesday morning in the House Appropriations Committee.
The proposal was pushed back by Republicans who said they feared people would take unfair advantage of it. Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, chafed at the idea of taxpayers paying for the economic fallout from government-ordered business closures.
These shutdowns, ordered around the world, were an effort to stem the transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus.
“Now we’re using taxpayers’ money to pay people’s rent,” said Speciale, one of the more conservative members of the legislature. “I find that totally absurd, and I just want to make that comment.”
The program would have three components, and the mortgage relief portion would receive $60 million. It started at $100 million, but the money was transferred to rental assistance programs and utilities.
The mortgage program would be capped at $1,000 per month, with a total cap of $9,000, and would require the following:
- Financial hardship or job loss due to the pandemic, verified by the state unemployment office.
- Household income at or below 350% of the federal poverty level, or about $87,850 for a family of four.
- The mortgage lender refused forbearance, loan modification or other relief.
- The accommodation must be the sole and main residence of the beneficiaries.
Here are the rules of the rental assistance program:
- Applicants must be experiencing financial hardship or job loss due to the pandemic, verified by the state unemployment office.
- They must be unable to pay their rent.
- Their household income cannot be higher than the median income of the region where they live. For example, Szoka said, the median income in Fayetteville is around $54,700.
- The maximum is $9,000 in total, and rent payments cannot exceed 70% of the household’s adjusted gross monthly income, or $1,000 per month.
Here are the utility program rules:
- Water, sewer, electricity and natural gas can be covered, but only for a residence.
- The income earned by the beneficiary’s household cannot exceed 80% of the median income of the region.
- The cap is $1,800.
- There are monthly caps at several levels. People earning less than 50% of the region’s median income could earn up to $300 a month. People earning between 51% and 80% could earn up to $150 per month.
The programs would be run by the state Housing Finance Agency, and funds are set aside under the $200 million program to pay housing counselors and nonprofits that provide legal assistance to help.
Lawmakers have not finalized the amount that will be set aside for each strand of the program, and Szoka said those conversations will continue.