A new $539 million fund has been launched to help New York homeowners keep their homes by averting mortgage delinquency, default, foreclosure and displacement with fully-forgivable loans of up to $50,000, the governor has announced.

Governor Kathy Hochul said New York was the first state in the country to receive U.S. Department of the Treasury’s approval to launch its Homeowner Assistance Fund, which will help homeowners still recovering from the pandemic with “much-needed economic relief.”

“We know that the economic pain of the pandemic has been felt disproportionately in rural communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities, and this program is a demonstration of our commitment to placing the needs of New Yorkers in need at the heart of our work,” Hochul said.

Applications to the fund be accepted beginning Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 through the program’s website, NYS HAF program website. The state has also launched an information call center and a multi-lingual marketing campaign that will help educate homeowners about the program and ensure all New Yorkers, especially those in non-English speaking households, are ready to apply.

The new fund, designed and administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), will target low- to moderate-income homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments, property taxes, water or sewer bills, as well as owners of cooperative or condo units behind on maintenance fees, and manufactured homeowners behind on chattel loans or retail installment contracts.

To be eligible, applicants must have a household income at or below 100% of the Area Median Income and must be at least 30 days delinquent on monthly housing payments for their primary residence. Awards will be capped at $50,000 per household.

The award will be structured as a five-year, non-interest, non-amortizing forgivable loan. If the homeowner remains in the home for five years, the loan will be fully forgiven.

The program will be managed by nonprofit community development financial institution, Sustainable Neighborhoods LLC.

The program is the latest in the state’s attempts to keep homeowners and tenants in their homes as the state’s eviction moratorium end nears. More than 164,000 tenants applied for assistance through the state’s $2.1 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and more than 90,000 payments were made to landlords. Hochul said that due to existing need, she had applied to the U.S. Department of Treasury for an extra nearly $1 billion for the fund.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who represents parts of central and north Brooklyn, said the HAF program would help working class homeowners pay their mortgage, prevent default, foreclosure, and displacement.

“During the global pandemic, working families have plenty to worry about and they shouldn’t have the added stress of the fear of losing their home.”

Rep. Yvette Clarke added that the program would assist low-to moderate-income households struggling under the weight of “debilitating bills like mortgage payments and property taxes,” as well ensuring New Yorkers see the relief they are entitled to through a partnership with the Office of the New York State Attorney General.

“Housing is, and will always be, a universal human right. As a consequence of the past years’ compounding crises, too many folks and their families have faced housing uncertainties and troubles no one should,” Clarkes said.

“This program offers meaningful solutions to real issues and will preserve the rights and dignity of our most vulnerable populations.”

As part of the program launch, HCR and Sustainable Neighborhoods have hired 23 community-based organizations to perform targeted outreach to homeowners who may be at risk. HCR has also formed a partnership with more than 70 non-profit housing counseling and legal service providers, members of the NY Homeowner Protection Program, who will have direct access to the online application portal and who will be able to submit multiple applications on behalf of their clients.

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