Homeowner Assistance 101

Nov 10, 2022

What is homeowner assistance?

Federal homeowner assistance is available through the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF), which is overseen by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and administered by states, territories, and tribes. There are billions of dollars in aid available! The Homeowner Assistance Fund was formed to prevent mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities and home energy services, and displacement of homeowners facing financial hardship after January 21, 2020. (In other words, after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.) 

So if you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, property taxes, or utilities, the Homeowner Assistance Fund can help. Funding can be used for past-due mortgage payments, future mortgage payments, essential home repairs, property taxes, and more. Even better? It usually doesn’t need to be repaid.

Aid is administered locally, so the availability of funds will depend on what state, territory, or tribal land you reside in. In most states, the Homeowner Assistant Fund is still active! A few states have closed or suspended their programs, but could still be accepting waitlist applications. Depending where you live — even if federal assistance isn’t available — you might also be able to get help from a non-profit or religious charity. So keep looking! 

How do I know if I’m eligible for homeowner assistance?

Eligibility varies state by state, and will also change if you live in on tribal lands or in a US territory like Puerto Rico or Guam. To get started, use this map to locate the state where you own your home and click it to navigate to your local program. The map also tells you in a glance if your state is currently participating in the Homeowner Assistance Fund. (Even if the map says your state has closed the program, still click on it! It will take you to a list of other resources that might help, including utilities assistance programs.)

The Homeowner Assistance Fund was launched as part of the American Rescue Plan to help people impacted by Covid-19. So you’ll likely need to attest that you experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19 after January 21, 2020, among other requirements — like a certain number of past-due payments. Eligible properties may include single-family homes, condos, and manufactured homes. Homeowners with varying types of past-due housing-related payments may be eligible — not just homeowners with mortgages. Also, you don’t have to be a US citizen to be eligible. 

Whether or not you qualify for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, be sure to visit the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's housing assistance portal. There you’ll find a huge range of relief and local assistance programs, housing counselors to guide you, and info about mortgage forbearance. Which would allow you to temporarily pause or reduce your mortgage payments.

What about foreclosure moratoriums?

Unfortunately, federal and state foreclosure moratoriums have ended, and it doesn’t look like they will be reintroduced any time soon. However, if you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan and you apply to your state's HAF program, your mortgage servicer must suspend any foreclosure activity for up to 60 days. 

Important Note

If you’re facing foreclosure, know your options. (You might have more options than you think.) Instead of walking away, check out these strategies that could help preserve your credit. And if you’ve already lost your housing, there are many resources to get back on your feet, with a roof over your head.

Why do I keep seeing “HAF”?

Most options for homeowner relief right now are referred to as Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) programs. This is due to the federal program being named the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and HAF funding filtering down to the states. You can use the national databases we mentioned earlier and search engines to find local HAF programs for your state or tribal lands, if you’re living in First Nations territory. If you can’t find anything online, dial 2-1-1 and people at your local housing authority should be able to help.

Federal HAF funds via local programs can cover mortgage, property tax, and gas, electric, and/or water costs — if you’re eligible (see above). In most cases, aid will be sent directly to your mortgage servicer, utility company, or the contractor making repairs, if they participate in the HAF program. So be sure to confirm that the utilities, mortgage servicer, or your neighborhood contractor participates in HAF. When your federal assistance has been sent, make sure to confirm they’ve received it, and get that confirmation in writing.  

These local programs can also connect you with social service case managers, legal aid, counseling related to housing stress, and other services to keep you in your home. If you’re sick of reading and want to get to searching, check out these resources from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Relief Alternatives

You might not be eligible for HAF for any number of reasons, but you’re not out of options. And even if you might be eligible, it doesn’t hurt to explore all your options:

  • Talk to your mortgage servicer to request forbearance, which will let you pause or reduce your payments; it can keep you out of foreclosure
  • Get in touch with a housing counselor
  • Research non-profits in your area that offer assistance with utilities and other housing costs (and ask the housing counselor we mentioned above!)
  • In case you do need to move, look into public housing. Wait lists can be long, so it’s great to be prepared:
  • See what’s available in your area
  • If you’re on tribal land, check with your local public housing agency
  • While mostly spent, some parts of the country do still have Section 8 housing vouchers that can be acquired without being on a waitlist for multiple years. Full details found here

Special Situations

If you’re a veteran who has lost or is at risk of losing your home, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET (877-424-3838) immediately for assistance or visit the VA’s online portal of housing resources. If you’re a tribal member, you may be eligible for both federal and tribal assistance! Reach out to your tribal government or tribally designated housing entity for assistance, they should be able to help. And if you live in a mobile home, trailer, or houseboat and need help repaying loans for those home types, check with your state HAF program to see what they can offer. You’re not alone, even if you’re over water or your house has wheels.

Don’t be discouraged!

Deadline passed? Be sure to bookmark any program you find you’re eligible for and check back often, even if the application deadline has passed. Some programs release funding for homeowner assistance in waves and may open their program back up to accept more applications in the near future.

We're building a repository of state-level resources, linking them here. Drop us a line if you’re a Bridge member and want to see your state added next!