Applications opened Monday for the state Homeowner Assistance Fund, a $539 million program aimed at helping residents who are behind on their housing payments because of financial hardship caused by the pandemic.
Funds are available for homeowners who have missed mortgage, property tax, water or sewer payments. They can also be used by owners in condos or co-ops who are behind on maintenance fees and residents in manufactured homes behind on their housing payments.
"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," Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday in a statement.
The state has published information about eligibility, an application guide and a list of documents required for applications at nyhomeownerfund.org.
The state’s affordable housing agency, Homes and Community Renewal, has worked to make the application process simpler by using technology that reduces the number of verification documents needed and allows applicants to complete their submission over multiple sessions, not all at once.
The state is working with more than 70 housing counseling and legal services agencies that can assist clients. The online application is available in 10 languages beyond English — Arabic, Bengali, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Yiddish and Spanish.
New York was the first state to get approval to distribute the federal funds, in November. Still, the applications open less than two weeks before the planned Jan. 15 expiration of the state’s foreclosure moratorium, which has prevented lenders from taking action against homeowners experiencing hardship because of COVID-19.
It’s important for homeowners in financial trouble to seek help from housing counseling agencies as soon as possible, as they have more options to help clients when they have only recently started missing payments, said Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services in Bohemia.
"The good news is the HAF funding is in place," Wilder said. "That will help some people transition to begin to pay their mortgage and move on. Unfortunately, the problem is a lot larger than the funding that’s available."
The Nassau Bar Association is holding its next mortgage foreclosure clinic for homeowners seeking assistance Wednesday in Mineola. More information is available at nassaubar.org/free-mortgage-foreclosure-clinics.