Rent, mortgage help available in Lenawee County during pandemic

ADRIAN – There has been a lot of housing assistance available during the pandemic and there is more to come, according to those working to keep a roof over people’s heads.

Housing Help of Lenawee has been able to give a lot in terms of rental assistance and utilities, said Executive Director Elizabeth Salerno. Utility assistance covers everything from gas and electricity to water and internet service. This program is facilitated by Community Action Agency, but funding comes from Housing Help.

“To put it in perspective, at the end of last year they basically told us, ‘Hey, the community is going to get $ 3.5 million for rental assistance with the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program. or CERA, “” said Salerno. “Since then, they have donated more funds than they originally thought. So it’s actually just over $ 4 million that our community received to help with rentals and utilities.

Although the moratorium on evictions was lifted months ago, there are even fewer restrictions on receiving assistance through the federal CERA program.

“The bottom line is that you just have to prove that you live in a rental, and you have to either be behind on your rent or behind your utilities. You don’t need to be in a shutdown state. You don’t need to be on a court-ordered eviction. So it’s a lot more flexible when it comes to restrictions, ”said Salerno. “In fact, they will allow us to help people who make up to 80% of the region’s median income, most of which is pre-COVID funding, the cap was 30% of the MAI. The CERA program therefore had much more flexibility.

There is more funding to come as well as a program specifically for homeowners. All of this is facilitated by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

“So there will be another CERA funding round in the next three to six months, in the worst case it will be for rent assistance, but there will also be something; I don’t know if they’re going to call it CERA or something. But basically what the MSHDA has told us is that there will be a round ahead, a second round that will be just for mortgages, where it basically looks like it will work the same as it does for the tenant, except it’s supposed to help owners, ”said Salerno.

Jessica Russell, program manager at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said that since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has also offered mortgage forbearance to people who own their own homes.

“Basically it allows a consumer or homeowner to temporarily suspend their mortgage payments for a period of time while they get back on their feet, and then when the forbearance ends, they work with their mortgage agent to figure out how. become mainstream again, ”said Russell. “There are different ways that can happen. Sometimes it’s putting the payments at the end of the loan. Sometimes you change the payments so that you can reduce the payment. Some people pay off everything in one lump sum.

Millions of homeowners benefited from the program and were able to avoid the mortgage company for 18 months, Russell said.

“There are roughly 7 million homeowners nationwide who have used forbearance at some point during the COVID pandemic, and now it’s just under 2% of mortgages that are still on forbearance. . So now there’s a great group of people coming out of forbearance because they’ve hit the maximum they can and there had to be an end to that, ”Russell said. “So for these people, we have a plethora of resources on our website. We want to refer people to housing counselors. I think a lot of people don’t know that it is possible to get free housing advice.

To access a housing advisor, go to www.consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor/.

And for tenants, Housing Help Salerno says there’s a lot more to come when it comes to rent assistance.

“We still have a lot of money. We paid at least $ 2.2 million between utilities and rental assistance, ”said Salerno. “There is a lot of help out there right now and there is more to come.”

Housing assistance can be found at 307 E. Church St. in Adrian. To reach the office by phone, dial 517-264-0782.