State to offer federally funded mortgage aid

·3 min read

Jan. 28—The state has launched a program funded by the federal government to assist about 1, 000 Oahu homeowners hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and who may be in jeopardy of losing their homes.

Federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act in the amount of $50 million for the entire state will help some homeowners, with Oahu receiving a $30 million piece of that pie, and the other counties receiving $20 million.

Those in need of assistance should act quickly as only 1, 000 applications will be accepted initially.

"Helping people avoid foreclosure and displacement during this pandemic is a top priority, and we want to be able to help those homeowners with the greatest need so they can remain in their homes, " HHFDC Executive Director Denise Iseri-Matsubara.

Program applicants who are eligible could receive up to $30, 000 in funding to cover mortgage payments, property taxes, utility payments, homeowner association fees and other expenses.

Priority will be given to homeowners behind on their mortgages due to the pandemic, particularly those who are at or below 100 % area median income or who are considered socially disadvantaged, says the state Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

HHFDC contracted the nonprofit CNHA to administer the program for Oahu homeowners.

To qualify by income, an Oahu household of four can have an annual household income of up to $120, 800 ; for a household of one person, that is $84, 600.

Also in the priority group are those considered socially disadvantaged, including Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, multiethnic individuals who identify with any of the previous categories, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans.

Kainalu Severson, CNHA director of emergency financial assistance, said because it is federal funding, CNHA must follow federal guidelines on who makes up the priority group.

But he said, "I encourage all Oahu homeowners to please apply. We're here to help and provide the resources. If they're struggling, we're here to help."

CNHA is taking the first 1, 000 applications, allowing its staff to process them based on the priority groups, Severson said, adding the agency may be able to take in more applications later.

"We're trying our best to expedite this program so we can get people this help as quickly as possible, " he said, adding that CNHA accepted the contract in late December.

Severson said the money from the U.S. Treasury "is not enough to serv ­ice everyone, " adding that prior research by the University of Hawaii showed 17, 000 homeowners need this kind of help.

"In addition to paying their delinquent homeowners expenses, we're also offering resources to housing and financial counseling as well as legal aid services, " he said.

Oahu homeowners needing assistance should go to to see whether they qualify. If they meet the minimum criteria, they should gather the required documents and submit their applications through the electronic portal at the aforementioned web address.

They must be able to provide, among other things, proof of financial hardship, proof of housing instability such as past-due mortgage statements or foreclosure notices, and proof of AMI.

The Oahu homeowner Assistance Fund program got underway Jan. 21, and the other counties' programs started earlier.

A homeowner's bank or lender must sign up to participate in the program in order for the homeowner to qualify for assistance.

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