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New protections for homeowners, renters in pandemic

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Fri, Jul 31st 2020 05:10 pm

Attorney General James announces $10 million to protect homeowners during COVID-19 pandemic

Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) to provide support to New York homeowners at-risk for foreclosure

Attorney General Letitia James announced $10 million in grant funding as part of a total $20 million allocation to support New York homeowners struggling with foreclosure. The Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) connects homeowners to free, qualified mortgage-assistance relief services across New York.

According to FHFA’s 2020 first-quarter report on foreclosure prevention actions, just over 170,000 homeowners asked for a forbearance on their payments, compared to around 7,000 that were filed in the last quarter of 2019.

The AG’s office said, “As mortgage payment deferrals due to COVID-19 begin to expire, New Yorkers, more than ever, need this support to ensure they can remain in their homes. The funding supports a network of more than 80 housing counselors and legal service organizations that have helped more than 100,000 families avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes.”

“Owning a home is a staple of the American Dream,” James said. “During these uncertain times, the need for assistance and guidance to get homeowners back on track is evident and urgent. My office is committed to protecting homeownership and ensuring that all New Yorkers have a safe and decent home.”

“Throughout the pandemic, New Yorkers have proven that they are smart, tough and resilient, but these are the most challenging times we have faced in generations and we have an obligation to do all we can to prevent foreclosures from plaguing communities,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “The Homeowner Protection Program championed by Attorney General James will provide homeowners across the state with much-needed security during this incredibly difficult time.”

The Attorney General’s Office is partnering with the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Empire Justice Center to help manage and coordinate the program.

“We are thrilled to see HOPP entering its ninth year under the direction of the New York State Office of the Attorney General,” said Kirsten Keefe, program director for HOPP anchor partner program. “HOPP’s network of housing counseling and legal services programs available to homeowners in every county of the state will be more critical than ever given the unprecedented number of homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank Gov. Cuomo, the State Legislature, and Attorney General Letitia James for their strong commitment to the program.” 

“We are grateful to the Office of the Attorney General for championing consumer relief and housing stability for homeowners in need across New York state,” said Christie Peale, CEO and executive director, Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “We especially applaud Attorney General Letitia James for pushing for ongoing funding for this critical work, which will enable thousands of our fellow New Yorkers to save their homes this year.”

The Office of the Attorney General established the program in 2012 in response to rising foreclosures stemming from the financial crisis. However, even a decade beyond the “housing crisis,” communities across New York state continue to face many challenges related to homeowner stability, such as continued foreclosures, predatory mortgage lending, deed theft and other scams.

Until now, the funding for HOPP came from bank settlements secured by the OAG. Funding will also continue to support educational and referral services. Now the program is state funded, and the New York State Legislature has allocated a total of $20 million to support the program through a ninth year.

“As millions of New Yorkers struggle to make ends meet during this coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis, government has a responsibility to step up and help,” New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for allocating funds to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. This effort, as well as the steps taken by the Senate majority to help tenants and homeowners, will mean more of our neighbors can stay in their homes and communities. I look forward to continuing to work with the attorney general and my colleagues in state government to help all New Yorkers during these difficult times.”

“The Homeownership Protection Program is essential to homeowners in ordinary circumstances, but in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, it is an absolutely critical resource to New Yorkers,” New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “Homeownership is the foundation of the American Dream, and this program helps assure that New Yorkers never lose their homes because they do not have access to a lawyer or qualified housing counselor. The Assembly majority has fought for years to ensure the program is adequately funded because we know how important stable housing is for families. I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for her commitment to protecting vulnerable homeowners when they need it most.”

James is committed to protecting vulnerable homeowners and encourages those who have been scammed to report complaints by calling the office at 800-771-7755 or by filling out a complaint form. The OAG cannot assist with mortgage payments; however, homeowners throughout New York who are behind on their mortgage or other charges can get free help in their community by calling HOPP hotline at 855-HOME-456 or 855-466-3456. Any identifying information provided to the OAG will be protected in a manner consistent with state law and policies on the safeguarding of identifying information.

NYS Homes and Community Renewal Extends Deadline One Week for Rent Relief Program Applications

Applications will be accepted until Thursday, Aug. 6

New York State Homes and Community Renewal announced the deadline to file applications for the COVID rent relief program has been extended by one week through Thursday, Aug. 6. Applications are available on HCR’s website at: https://hcr.ny.gov/RRP.

COVID rent relief program applications can also be filled out and submitted online in Spanish. Translated applications are available to download and submit via mail in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian-Creole, Korean, and Bengali. Mailed applications must be postmarked by Aug. 6.

HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “The Legislature designed the COVID rent relief program to help New Yorkers who are the most at-risk and rent-burdened after losing income due to the pandemic. By keeping the online portal open for another week, we can make sure everyone who needs to apply for assistance has the opportunity to do so. This program is intended to prioritize households across the state with the greatest economic and social need, accounting for income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness. HCR will not make any determinations on a first-come, first-served basis.”

In addition to the program application, HCR’s website – hcr.ny.gov/RRP – also contains contact information for the Rent Relief Program Call Center, a list of frequently asked questions, and additional resources for residents. The website also provides the application, FAQs and other documents in six different languages to ensure New Yorkers with limited English proficiency have proper access to the application and program tools.

HCR has created a dedicated call center to provide residents, including those with limited English proficiency, with help Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Call the COVID Rent Relief Program Call Center at 1-833-499-0318 or email at [email protected].

There is also a list of community-based organizations in each region of the state who are available to assist non-English-speaking residents with their application. The New York State Office for New Americans can also offer assistance.

Residents may also authorize a caseworker, attorney or other personal representative to apply for the COVID rent relief program on their behalf. The authorized representative release form is available and can be downloaded from the rent relief program website https://hcr.ny.gov/RRP#application.

•What is the COVID rent relief program?

The New York State Legislature established this program to help households experiencing an increase in their “rent burden” due to a loss of income during the COVID-19 crisis. Rent burden is the amount of monthly contractual rent that exceeds 30% of gross household income.

The rental assistance subsidy will cover the difference between the household’s rent burden on March 1, 2020, and the increase in rent burden for the period the household is applying for assistance.

The awards are limited to cover an increase in rent burden during April, May, June and July, and there is a cap on the total subsidy amount residents can receive.

HCR will prioritize households with “greatest economic and social need” accounting for income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness.

•Who is eligible for the COVID rent relief program?

To qualify for COVID rent relief assistance, an applicant must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

1. Be a renter with a primary residence in New York state.

2. Before March 1, 2020, and at the time of application, household income must be below 80% area median income (to view AMI by county and household size, visit: https://hcr.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/07/crrp2020_eligible_income_80ami.pdf).

a. Families with extremely low income will prioritized.

b. Income includes unemployment insurance payments/PUA.

3. Before March 1, 2020, and at the time of application, household must pay more than 30% of gross monthly income for rent.

4. Applicants have less monthly income in any month between April and July 2020 than they did prior to March 1, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more detailed information on the rent relief program and additional eligibility criteria, visit HCR’s website https://hcr.ny.gov/RRP.

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