With each state acting at its own discretion in distributing the $ 150 billion coronavirus relief fund, some of the money will still be available for mortgage and rent payments. Because these CARES Act funds must be used before the end of the year, many states are making efforts to ensure that the money is used in a timely manner.
"That puts a lot of pressure on these programs," said Stockton Williams, executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies. "Demand in most states far exceeds what is and will be available."
A total of 34 states have allocated a total of $ 1.5 billion for housing assistance, of which an estimated $ 1 billion will come from the fund, according to the NCSHA. One state, Vermont, provided the funds solely for mortgage assistance, and 23 states provided the funds solely for rental assistance. Ten states and Washington D.C. used the funds for both.
While states like Illinois may have completed the distribution of the funds, the majority remain open or have reopened with additional funds after encountering overwhelming demand, Williams said.
"So far, the biggest housing shortage has been that of lower-income tenants, but there are certainly places where homeowners have struggled with even the leniency options," said Williams. “With forbearance, sooner or later the bill will be due. Some people will be able to repay it, but many will not repay it. That motivated the development of these programs. "
Vermont may have chosen to focus on mortgage assistance as 71% of the homes in the state are owned. In contrast, in a state like New York, almost half of the homes are rented out.
State housing aid programs could be extended through the use of other funds or through an agreement between federal officials in negotiations on a second economic stimulus package. However, the latter is unlikely before the general election in November.
In the meantime, the states are working to use the funds available.
For example, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency has been offering six months of mortgage or rental assistance to consumers with certain coronavirus-related difficulties to cover payments since March. The agency recently extended its deadline to November 4th and relaxed some of its requirements for lenders and landlords.
Pennsylvania single-family mortgage lenders and landlords must continue to complete the application process and agree to accept assistance. However, that support may now partially or fully cover consumer payments, PHFA spokesman Scott Elliott said. Previously, the lender and landlord had to agree that the maximum monthly support of $ 1,000 would be used to fully cover payments.
"It is possible that the deadline could be extended further into December," noted Elliott.
When asked how similarly Pennsylvania is using money to other states' programs, Williams said, "If you blink and look carefully, no state is exactly alike, but there are many similarities."
Other states have also made adjustments to their deadlines and programs based on the responses they have received over time, Williams said. For example, the Vermont Housing Finance Agency has extended its mortgage assistance deadline to November 6th. and Louisiana once shortened its tenant and landlord application in an effort to improve it.
"You can't overstate the challenges of creating brand new housing programs during a pandemic and severe economic recession," he said. "To their credit, the agencies have been flexible and responsive to changing circumstances and have seen their programs revised to work better."
The average size of government housing assistance programs is $ 44.2 million and the median size is $ 21.1 million, according to NCSHA.