Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that applications are now being accepted for the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund (NYS HAF), a program that will provide up to $539 million in aid or other direct assistance to help eligible homeowners who are at risk of default, foreclosure, or displacement due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic. New York was the first state in the nation to receive U.S. Department of the Treasury approval to launch its program.
"For many, buying a home is the greatest source of economic and social stability, and our Homeowner Assistance Fund - the first in the nation to be approved - is a critical tool to help ease the pain of the pandemic felt disproportionately in rural communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities," Governor Hochul said."My administration will continue to stand by homeowners, renters and all New Yorkers every step of the way as part of our economic recovery."
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "What we do now to help our fellow New Yorkers keep their homes will impact communities and our state for generations to come by contributing to its vitality and building future successes. We cannot and we will not stand by as homeownership and economic gains are threatened in historically disadvantaged communities. Working with our partners in legal services and community-based housing organizations, we have designed the Homeowner Assistance Fund program to help our at-risk families in every corner of the state regain financial stability."
Attorney General Letitia James said, "As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the health and wallets of New Yorkers, it is critical that homeowners are granted the relief they need," said Attorney General Letitia James. "The Homeowner Assistance Fund will go a long way in helping homeowners get through this crisis, but it's imperative that these funds are used to support not replace the mortgage industry's own efforts to help struggling homeowners. Through our new Mortgage Enforcement Unit, my office will ensure that these funds go where they are needed and can protect as many homeowners as possible."
Designed and administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), NYS HAF targets low- to moderate-income homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments, property taxes, and water and sewer bills. The program is also open to owners of cooperative or condo units who are behind on maintenance fees, and manufactured homeowners behind on chattel loans, retail installment contracts or lot rents.
Applicants may receive financial assistance to catch up on missed housing payments, to reduce mortgage debt to make monthly mortgage payments more affordable, and for homeowners who are unemployed, assistance with up to six months of future housing payments.
HCR is also working in partnership with the Office of the New York State Attorney General's Mortgage Enforcement Unit to advocate with mortgage lenders and mortgage servicers to ensure homeowners are receiving all available relief under federal and state rules. This may include extended mortgage terms, deferment of missed payments or forbearance amounts, and lower interest rates to reduce monthly payments.
The NYS HAF call center - 844-77-NYHAF (844-776-9423) - will operate Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. to assist homeowners and provide critical information about the program and instructions on how to apply.
Last month, Governor Hochul announced the launch of the NYS HAF program website, an information call center, and a multilingual marketing campaign that is helping educate homeowners about the program and ensure all eligible New Yorkers, especially those in non-English speaking households, are ready and able to apply.
By examining previous assistance state programs, HCR designed a more streamlined application to ensure the process is simple and easy for homeowners to navigate. Efficiencies include:
· Utilizing several industry-standard, third-party verification technologies that confirm applicant identification and/or ownership, and may limit the number of documents that a homeowner needs to provide as part of their application.
· Allowing the application to be started, paused, and resumed later without losing data and information already entered.
· Accepting signed attestations from applicants to minimize the number of documents they will need to submit.
To make the application process accessible for all homeowners, and to assist those with limited access to technology or limited English language fluency, HCR has made the following accommodations:
· Applicants may authorize a relative or other surrogate to submit an application on their behalf and continue to communicate directly with program staff to track the status of that application.
· NYS HAF has partnered with a network of over 70 housing counseling and legal services providers to allow direct access to the online application portal and who will be able to submit multiple applications on behalf of their clients.
· Homeowners can contact the NYS HAF call center and apply over the phone.
· The website and supporting materials are available in English and ten additional languages: Arabic, Bengali, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Yiddish, and Spanish.
· The online application is available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Hebrew, and Spanish.
· The Call Center will be able to assist with language translations for any application
Since announcing the program in early December, HCR mobilized an outreach and education campaign directed to vulnerable homeowners to ensure they understood the program and were prepared to apply. This included mobilizing a team of 23 community-based organizations, covering every region of the state, to work with their targeted constituencies of at-risk homeowners. Areas of particular interest are those historically subjected to housing discrimination, areas where homeowners may have limited access to the internet, and communities where there is a high level of homeownership distress.
In addition, a statewide multilingual marketing campaign was created in an effort to reach vulnerable homeowners in their own language through trusted media outlets in communities where English is not the primary language.
The NYS HAF program is administered by Sustainable Neighborhoods LLC, a non-profit community development financial institution selected through a competitive Request for Proposals. Sustainable Neighborhoods has extensive experience administering foreclosure prevention and loss mitigation programs across the state.
Sustainable Neighborhoods CEO/Executive Director Christie Peale said, "Thousands of low-income homeowners who have been struggling financially because of COVID will now get the relief they desperately need, thanks to the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund. Whether you live in a manufactured home, a condominium, coop or a single-family home, we encourage you to apply as soon as possible to receive assistance. It is urgent that we help as many families as possible keep their homes, despite the damaging impacts of the pandemic. We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership and dedication."