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Free state program helps homeowners behind on their mortgage due to COVID

A state mortgage-assistance program has expanded again to help more financially strapped homeowners who are struggling with their housing-related payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Mortgage Relief Program has increased the amount of funding per household to $80,000 – including for those who have been helped previously by the program – and for homeowners with loan deferrals since January 2020. The free program will help homeowners who have missed at least two mortgage payments or one property tax payment before March 1, 2023.

The federally funded, state-managed program’s goal is to ensure homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can remain in their homes. When COVID arrived in early 2020, many homeowners had hours cut at work or were laid off, forcing some to miss housing-related payments. Now, some of those homeowners are behind on their payments.

HELPING THE ‘MOST VULNERABLE HOMEOWNERS’ 

Homeowners must meet income requirements, based on their county and the number of adults in the house, in order to qualify for the California Mortgage Relief Program. The income limits are 150% of the county’s area median income – or about $142,000 for a two-adults household in Los Angeles County (check income limits in the chart).

“Since its inception, the California Mortgage Relief Program has been dedicated to helping California’s most vulnerable homeowners overcome the financial challenges brought on by COVID-19,” says Tiena Johnson Hall, Executive Director of the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA). The state agency oversees the program. “This program has already eased a heavy burden for thousands of families who were worried about losing their homes, and this expansion will allow even more homeowners to protect their single greatest financial asset.”

Now, a majority of homeowners in California are considered equity rich – the current value of their home exceeds the money owed on a mortgage – and foreclosures remain near a record low, according to ATTOM Data. But for homeowners who are behind on their mortgage or property tax payments, especially those who may have lost their jobs and still struggling, the free mortgage-assistance program could help.

“Many homeowners are still recovering from the financial hardships of the pandemic,” says Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez. “This program expansion will enable the state to assist even more homeowners who fell behind on their mortgage payments.” 

Income limits for two-adult households

CountyIncome limit
Fresno$93,500
Los Angeles$143,000
Riverside$105,600
Sacramento$121,600
San Diego$156,150
San Francisco$224,000
Santa Clara$202,000
Shasta$95,300

Source: California Mortgage Relief Program

ABOUT A THIRD OF THE FUNDING HAS BEEN ISSUED

The federally funded American Rescue Plan Act’s Homeowners Assistance Fund awarded states with mortgage relief dollars in late 2021. California was awarded $1 billion.

The California Mortgage Relief Program has assisted almost 12,400 homeowners with a total of $337 million – or about $27,200 per household. About 20,000 to 40,000 homeowners could be helped by the program.

While there is no deadline for applications, homeowners should apply as soon as possible since assistance is first come, first served.

“These funds have changed lives and saved families,” says Volma Volcy, founder and executive director of The Ring of Democracy. “I’ve had the honor of helping homeowners who went from believing they were going to lose their home to experiencing joy and relief after receiving this financial assistance.”