Gov’t opens $75.6M Puerto Rico Homeowner Assistance Program application cycle
The US Department of Treasury approved Puerto Rico’s plan to use some $75.6 million for the Homeowner Assistance Program to help homeowners who have faced difficulties paying the mortgage on their primary residence, and other housing-related expenses, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This program is aimed at preventing mortgage defaults, home foreclosures and the loss of essential services in the home of owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said.
“We want our people to be able to stay in their homes, while providing stability to their families and achieving stronger and more resilient communities. I should emphasize that the Puerto Rico Homeowner Assistance Program is for homeowners who had material losses in their income due to the pandemic beginning in January 2020, to help them recover,” Pierluisi said.
“We estimate that at least 5,000 homeowners can benefit from this program in the 78 municipalities,” he said. “We’ve made sure the program is simple to apply for and qualify for. The most important thing is to be able to help as many families as possible.”
The commonwealth was awarded $75.6 million through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to launch Puerto Rico’s Homeowner Assistance Program, which the Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority will run. The application cycle for assistance is now open.
The Program will assist with the reinstatement of the first and second mortgages, as well as the homeowners’ housing costs, including taxes, insurance, other fees, and utilities.
“Our main intention is to help homeowners stay in their homes in a stable way during the pandemic, even if they have seen a decrease in their income due to different factors caused by the pandemic,” said Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Blanca P. Fernández González.
There are several maximum assistance caps under the program, depending on the options for which the homeowner is eligible. If more than one type of assistance is obtained, all assistance combined must not exceed $21,000.
Eligibility requirements for qualifying homeowners are:
- Homeowner must be behind on at least one payment related to their mortgage/home loan payment, property taxes, home-related insurance, utilities, homeowners’ association fees/condos, etc.;
- Have experienced a financial hardship after Jan. 21, 2020, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Own and occupy their property as their primary residence in Puerto Rico;
- Property type must be eligible (living or individual trust);
- Household income must not exceed 150% of the Area Median Income. US Treasury requires that at least 60% of the funds be available to households with an income less than or equal to 100% of the Area Median Income ($79,900) or 100% of the United States’, whichever is greater. Homeowners who do not meet this requirement, but are socially disadvantaged, may be eligible for assistance;
- Live in an eligible property type: single family home, condo, or mobile home (attached, not attached);
- The loan balance, at the time of origination, cannot exceed the limits established by Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac for conforming loans.
Meanwhile, eligible expenses include:
- Financial assistance to address first and second mortgage delinquencies;
- Assistance for mortgage payments;
- Homeowner taxes, insurance, flood insurance, and mortgage insurance;
- Homeowners association fees or levies, condo association fees, or common charges;
- Assistance with paying delinquent property taxes to avoid homeowner tax foreclosures; and,
- Assistance with utilities (electricity and water service).