City creates $5m foreclosure prevention fund
As her tenure nears an end, acting Mayor Kim Janey is looking to bring relief to homeowners most at risk of losing their homes. Her new $5 million “Emergency Foreclosure Prevention Fund” is now open for income-eligible residents to apply.
Part of her Housing Stability Agenda set forth in August, the fund is aimed at helping Boston homeowners who are at high risk of foreclosure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and facing issues including job loss, reduced income or unpaid time off due to pandemic-related health issues.
Applicants must be owner-occupants with incomes at or below 150% of area median income — which is calculated at $181,200 for a family of four — who are at least 90 days behind on one or more homeownership-related payments. In addition, they must have been referred to an attorney, received a Soldiers and Sailors Act notice or their condo association has started foreclosure proceedings.
“It’s 90 days, and you’re really up against it, and you might be in foreclosure in the next month or so,” said Maureen Flynn, deputy director of the Boston Home Center, a division of the Department of Neighborhood Development. She complimented the initiative saying, “This is a great way to get folks back to being stable in their home.”
According to Flynn, there are currently 93,326 homeowners in Boston who occupy their own homes. Of those, she said 5,943 are behind on their mortgages, though it’s hard to tell how many may be in immediate risk of losing their homes, because of ongoing forbearances. Those behind on their payments are disproportionately homeowners of color — 17.8% are Black, 8.7% Asian and 6.1% Latino.
Janey, in a statement announcing the new fund, said, “The pandemic has exacerbated inequities in our City, and highlighted the importance of safe, stable housing. We know that homeowners are still being negatively impacted by the pandemic, and I’m very pleased that this new fund will help us expand our reach to homeowners in need of assistance to remain in their homes.”
The city is using federal COVID Relief Funds and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to create the new fund. Homeowners can apply for the fund by contacting any one of three agencies who are administering the funds in partnership with the city: ESAC, Urban Edge, and ABCD Mattapan Family Services. As part of the program, homeowners will be able to receive foreclosure prevention counseling in conjunction with the funding.
“For the nonprofit organizations whose mission is to preserve our neighborhoods, it is fortunate that the City of Boston has created an Emergency Foreclosure Prevention Fund for those at high risk of foreclosure as a result of the pandemic,” said Bob Credle, director of Community Programs for Urban Edge. “With the infusion of these funds, we will have an additional tool to help the homeowners in our neighborhoods to avoid foreclosure and keep their homes.”
In addition to single-family homes, the new measure also looks to help small landlords struggling as the pandemic continues. In September, Janey instituted a temporary city-wide eviction moratorium, potentially putting small landlords at risk for foreclosure. The new fund aims to include some of those impacted by including homeowners with multi-family properties that “have tenants that have not paid all or some of their rent since March 2020.”
This is not a long-term solution, however. Flynn called it a “great stop-gap measure” as activists and officials continue to push for statewide protections against foreclosures and evictions.
Flynn said that in the meantime, anyone who thinks they might be eligible should apply, in order to ensure their contact information is available for future reference, even if they don’t get access to funds now. Additionally, servicers assisting anyone with loan modifications should refer their clients.
“Their referrals to the fund are going to be critical to getting the homeowners help,” Flynn said. “Sometimes homeowners might not know or want to reach out to us because of feeling embarrassed or ashamed. But if we can get the names and addresses of folks that are in trouble from servicers, we’re going to be able to reach out to homeowners directly and get them help.”
Residents who think they are eligible for assistance or have any questions are invited to contact one of the partner agencies:
• ESAC: (617) 524-2555 ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• Urban Edge: (617) 989-9309 or email@example.com
• ABCD Mattapan: (617) 298-2045 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who aren’t sure they qualify, a full list of the qualifying requirements can be found at boston.gov/housing/emergency-foreclosure-prevention-fund.
For those not necessarily in the “high risk” categories, city agencies can still offer help outside of the fund to avoid foreclosure, including assisting with loan modifications and connecting clients to home preservation services to ensure they are taking advantage of abatements and other qualifying programs, especially for elderly residents.