BURLINGTON, VT – The Vermont program that helps homeowners who fell behind on their mortgage or property taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic will reopen on Monday, May 3, 2021. The mortgage assistance program will provide grants covering up to 12 months of delinquent mortgage and property tax payments for eligible homeowners.
Funded by the federal CARES Act, the program first ran from July through December 2020, providing 636 Vermont households with grants averaging $6,000. With average monthly mortgage payments of $1,200, most of these households owed three or more months of payments and the majority were in forbearance.
The program is administered by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), but is open to all eligible homeowners, regardless of lending service.
A forbearing homeowner can suspend or reduce their mortgage payments for a limited period agreed by the mortgage agent, thus avoiding an immediate foreclosure. However, forbearance does not erase the amount the homeowner ultimately owes and sometimes repayment requirements can make the home unaffordable. By granting grants on behalf of the homeowner to the loan officer for missed payments, the Mortgage Assistance Program reduces the balance owed by the homeowner.
“We are relieved to resume these grants for the many homeowners in Vermont who continue to face economic hardship in this pandemic,” noted Maura Collins, executive director of VHFA. “We’ve already heard from landlords worried about paying off their forbearance balances and we’re glad this program can offer them a pathway to housing and financial stability.”
Some applicants who needed mortgage assistance in 2020 were unable to work because they cared for immunocompromised children at home. With vaccines restricted to people aged 16 and over, the need for some workers to stay at home is unlikely to change soon.
“I’m doing everything I can to provide for my family, but I don’t know when it’s safe to get back to work,” said Kimberly Edgars, a nurse who quit her job to care for her children. children, one of whom has special needs and is at high risk of complications. “So many people are going through situations like mine right now and I think this program can make a huge difference for many families.”
Vermont’s economy continues to struggle in many sectors, contributing to a prolonged need for mortgage assistance. Vermont’s job numbers fell 7.6% between March 2020 and March 2021 – more than any other New England state. This level of job loss is the highest ever in Vermont and is hitting the recreation and hospitality sector the hardest. Recreation and hospitality jobs in Vermont fell by 12,300 jobs, or 34%, in 2020.
Vermonters’ job losses are reflected in missed mortgage payments, which have doubled during the pandemic. Nearly 4.7% of all Vermont mortgages were seriously delinquent at the end of 2020, up from just 2.2% at the end of 2019, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Although a state foreclosure moratorium remains in place until at least mid-June, its eventual expiration and reduced federal benefits will leave many Vermonters at risk of losing their homes.
The Mortgage Relief Program will be available to eligible homeowners who have missed at least one payment since March 2020, whether or not they forbear. Eligibility requirements and application instructions are available on the VHFA website at www.vhfa.org/map. Mortgage and property tax payments will be made directly to the mortgage manager or the city in which the home is located.
VHFA is a nonprofit agency established in 1974 by the Vermont Legislature to fund and promote affordable housing opportunities for low- and middle-income Vermonters. Since its inception, the Agency has helped approximately 29,000 Vermont households with affordable mortgages and funded the development of approximately 8,800 affordable rental apartments.
Vermont Housing Finance Agency
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2021
CONTACT: LESLIE BLACK-DUSTER
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