Link to the article HERE
By Nydia Han and Heather Grubola Tuesday, August 1, 2023
PHILAELPHIA (WPVI) — There’s a crisis that’s impacting thousands of Pennsylvania homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes.
Millions of dollars are available to pay their mortgages and other bills, but homeowners have not been able to access that money.
There is a huge backlog of applications right now for the Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund. People started applying in February of last year, but thousands have been stuck in line and could now face possible foreclosure.
Deborah Brown of Southwest Philadelphia joined a rally on this issue at the Pennsylvania State Capitol earlier this summer.
“I’m behind in my mortgage because of things that have happened,” she said.
Brown says her son, who used to help with payments, lost his job during COVID. Now he’s hospitalized after a stroke.
“I’m 80 years old,” she said, “and I’m trying to take care of him.”
Brown says she applied for the Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund also known as the Foreclosure Fund. It’s part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and provided the state with $350 million.
“When I first applied, I was only one month behind. Now I’m six months behind,” she said.
Brown says she now owes $4,000 to her mortgage company, plus her gas has been cut off for two years. And while $169 million still remains in the Foreclosure Fund, Brown hasn’t seen a dime.
“Pennsylvania is number four in the nation, a number of foreclosures completed, meaning people actually lost their home. And this money needs to go to pay people’s mortgages,” said John Dodds of the PA Save Our Homes Coalition.
The money is designated for mortgage assistance of up to $50,000 and to pay utility bills, property taxes and other housing expenses.
“The main thing we think is that nobody that’s applied for this program should lose their house,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency is in charge of the mortgage relief money and has a current backlog of 11,000 homeowner applications.
“When we opened this program, there were thousands and thousands and thousands of homeowners that were struggling because of COVID and it overwhelmed the system,” said Bryce Maretzki of PHFA.
PHFA initially hired a third-party vendor to manage the program but ended that contract and paused the program so it could take over operations earlier this year.
“We’re getting more staff involved in terms of reviewing applications. We’re hiring more contractors to help us review applications. We are increasing our disbursements each month,” said Maretzki.
PHFA says from April to July it’s gone from processing 175 applications a month to 800 and disbursing $2 million a month to $8 million.
But PHFA said in order to continue moving forward, homeowners who’ve already applied need to re-register.
“We’re asking homeowners to take this very simple step so that we have correct reregistration information and verification, and then we will quickly move to getting through this battle,” he said.
You can re-register online or call PHFA at 1-888-978-2423.
When asked when PHFA will get through the backlog, it said it does not know.