The Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) recently expanded the eligibility criteria for its state-level Homeowners Assistance Fund (HAF) program to include reverse mortgage borrowers, a move that brings it in line with similar programs in other states. The federal government has also said it is the most applicable relief for reverse mortgage borrowers.
The funding, granted by the 2021 passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, was designed to offer assistance to any homeowner who suffered a financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic and fell behind on housing payments.
“After more than a year in operation, the [HAF] Program is expanding to provide more assistance and expand eligibility to help even more homeowners in Hawaii,” HHFDC said in a statement. “Now there are more ways for homeowners who didn’t qualify before, to qualify for much-needed assistance.”
In addition to opening up reverse mortgage borrowers in Hawaii for relief, the expanded criteria also doubles the maximum assistance amount per household from $30,000 to $60,000; makes forward payment mortgage assistance available for 12 months; and homeowners no longer have to be delinquent to qualify for assistance.
“Since the program’s inception, service providers Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) and Hawaii Community Lending (HCL) have been serving the neediest homeowners by providing essential mortgage assistance to homeowners who experienced financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” HHFDC said. “This expansion will provide more Hawaii homeowners with access to essential mortgage assistance.”
Homeowners within the state who may have previously applied for HAF assistance and were denied are encouraged to look at the expanded eligibility criteria and reapply if they believe they fit the new standards. HAF is currently available in three counties across Hawaii: Oahu, Hawaii County and Kauai County.
After a request for proposal was filed and failed to receive a response for Maui County, the state is “exploring alternate options to stand up the program” on that island.
HAF programs have seen limited adoption from impacted homeowners to date. In March, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is took steps to remind mortgage servicers that HAF assistance is still available for borrowers at risk of default on their mortgages due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Servicers communicate with the state HAF programs daily, and some of the state programs have even increased their available dollar amounts on a per-household basis, according to Celink SVP of Client Satisfaction Gail Balettie.
“Literally they’re looking for eligible borrowers,” Balettie told RMD in March. “So, to the extent borrowers are in [tax and insurance] default, they should apply and see what their state can do for them.”