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Housing and Homelessness

How California Homeowners Hit By COVID-19 Can Get Mortgage Help

A sign reading "Foreclosure free zone" is propped up in front of a green house.
A sign protesting foreclosures stands outside a house in Oakland.
(DANIEL ARAUZ / Flickr)
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Some California homeowners who’ve fallen behind on their mortgage payments due to COVID-19 can now seek help from a new state initiative launched Wednesday.

The California Mortgage Relief Program offers up to $80,000 in grants to low- and moderate-income households that have experienced financial hardship during the pandemic.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who represents a district in South L.A., said with $1 billion in federal funding coming to California through the American Rescue Plan, the new program will help prevent a wave of foreclosures in communities of color.

“Long before this pandemic, our state was experiencing a housing crisis,” Waters said. “This crisis was exacerbated during the post-2008 foreclosure crisis when millions lost their homes, disproportionately draining the wealth of Black and Latinx communities and further widening the racial wealth gap. Unfortunately, we’ve found ourselves in a similar situation the last few years.”

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California is launching its new mortgage relief program for homeowners months after it began distributing $5.2 billion in rent relief to clear the debts of low-income tenants.

How To Find Out If You’re Eligible 

Applicants must meet a long list of eligibility requirements.

Their annual household income cannot exceed their County’s median income. For example, a family of four in Los Angeles will not qualify if they earn more than $118,200. You can check the income limits for your region and household size using this online calculator.

Applicants must attest that they lost income or saw their household expenses increase due to COVID-19.

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The program also requires that applicants meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • They’re receiving some form of public assistance.
  • They’re severely housing burdened (putting more than half their income toward housing).
  • They’ve been denied an alternative workout option by their mortgage servicer.

Where To Apply

Though there is no deadline to apply, state officials encourage homeowners to apply as soon as possible at CaMortgageRelief.org.

The website will first help applicants determine their eligibility, then will allow them to apply and upload documents such as pay stubs and monthly bank statements.

If approved, funding will go directly to the applicant’s mortgage servicer.

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The program is first-come, first-served. However, a significant part of the money will be steered toward the poorest neighborhoods.

“We have reserved 40% of the total allocation to California to go to those homeowners who reside in historically socially disadvantaged communities,” said Rebecca Franklin, president of the CalHFA Homeowner Relief Corporation.

The program defines historically socially disadvantaged homeowners as those who reside in either a Qualified Census Tract (generally an area designated as high-poverty by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) or an area that scores “highest” or “high” on the UCLA Owner Vulnerability Index.

California Expects High Demand For Mortgage Relief

An estimated 6% of California homeowners are behind on their mortgages, according to state officials.

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“Although the economy shows signs of improving, people are still suffering from this financial fallout,” said Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. “We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure that Californians do not lose their homes.”

State officials expect the program’s $1 billion in funding will be enough to assist 20,000 to 40,000 households. It remains to be seen if demand will eclipse the amount of money set aside for the program.

According to U.S. Census Bureau survey data from last month, more than 231,000 households in the L.A. area are currently behind on their mortgage. Most of those households reported an annual income below $50,000.

Applicants with questions about seeking mortgage relief can call 1-800-569-4287 or email info@camortgagerelief.org for help.

What questions do you have about business and the economy in Southern California?
David Wagner focuses on Southern Californians getting left behind in an economy beset by soaring unemployment, pandemic-related business closures and high housing costs.