CT launches homeowner assistance program, part of pandemic relief

Months after launching its pilot program, Connecticut’s comprehensive assistance program for homeowners who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 is now open for applications.

It is intended to avoid foreclosures for non-payment of mortgages and other foreclosures for reasons such as back taxes, insurance and condo association fees.

The program, called MyHomeCT, is funded by approximately $123 million in federal funds. Connecticut homeowners who have a household income up to 150% of the region’s median income and who have experienced pandemic-related financial hardship are eligible.

Owners can receive up to $30,000 in grants. The nominations are available online.

This is the latest in a series of programs designed to help people recover from the pandemic. In February, the state Housing Department closed applications for its UniteCT program, which provided rental assistance to renters affected by the pandemic.

The homeowner assistance program was funded by the American Rescue Plan. The US Treasury Department oversees the program, which had nearly $10 billion set aside to be disbursed between states, tribes, territories and Washington, D.C.

The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority administers the state program. The agency distributed about $4.9 million under the pilot program, and about $14 million is for administrative costs. About $104 million remains for full program rewards.

The program has 51 participating mortgage agents. Condominiums, manufactured homes and mortgages on one to four unit homes are eligible.

The pilot program had lower income limits and fewer participating mortgage officers than the full program. So far, the program has granted money to 347 people. The median grant amount was $14,844, according to the financial authority Data.

“We worked specifically with a set number of repairers, and we also focused on a certain area median income,” said Marcus Smith, director of research, marketing and outreach at the financial authority. “We wanted to make sure low-income people had access.”

The higher income limits and number of repairers will likely mean more people taking part in the full program, Smith added.

“I think we’re excited and we’re confident we’ll get a good turnout,” he said.

While the number of foreclosures in Connecticut plummeted at the start of the pandemic, they increased again last year that federal protections have ended.

The federal government established a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in March 2020, and those protections ended in July 2021. Homeowners could also opt for extended forbearances of 18 months or breaks on payments mortgages. The first of these 18-month options expired in the fall.

ATTOMa company that collects data on foreclosures and other matters, estimates the number of properties with foreclosure filings was just over 78,000 nationwide in the first quarter of 2022, up from about 39% compared to the last quarter and 132% compared to 2021.

Jeff Gentes, general counsel for the Fair Lending and Foreclosure Prevention Project at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, said the center is seeing more cases of people whose forbearance options have expired.

“We’re starting to see what we’ve been waiting for for a long time and what frankly felt overdue, which is people’s mortgage companies not giving them a workout after they abstain,” Gentes said.

This means the homeowner assistance program comes at a critical time, he added.

The number of foreclosures filed per week has hovered around 160 lately, he said. Although high compared to the start of the pandemic, they are still well below pre-pandemic figures.

“So far, this has been primarily a pilot program to weed out some pending entries before the program goes into full launch mode,” he said. “We hope he [the full program] is fine.”

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