NH launches federally funded program to help struggling homeowners

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New Hampshire homeowners struggling with mortgages or property taxes have a new assistance program available this week, with the launch of a state-run, federally funded relief program Monday.

The New Hampshire Homeowner Assistance Fund allows homeowners with incomes less than 125% of their area median income to apply for up to $20,000 in aid for property-related expenses. Those expenses could include delinquent mortgage payments, homeowner insurance payments, property taxes, and homeowner association or co-op fees. The program also allows for up to $3,000 in utility payments.

The new program is available only to property owners who experienced a disruption to their income as a result of the pandemic.

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Administered by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, the state program taps into $40 million in housing funds allocated to the state by the American Rescue Plan of 2021, passed by Congress last March. New Hampshire began setting up its program and accepting applications a month ago, but is able to start distributing the money this week after receiving spending approval from lawmakers, said Rob Dapice, executive director of the Housing Finance Authority.

“There was broad agreement that these are the types of costs that can cause people to lose their housing stability,” Dapice said in an interview. “Somebody might own their home outright, you know, maybe an elderly resident, but have experienced a hardship, and have trouble keeping up with their property taxes. So they risk losing their home for that reason.”

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The state’s program was designed after consultations with stakeholders, including New Hampshire Legal Assistance and affordable housing advocacy organizations, Dapice said.

The new fund comes a year after New Hampshire officials launched a similar, $200 million program using federal recovery funds to help tenants falling behind on rent payments. That program has distributed $119.1 million in funds as of March 13, 2021, according to the Housing Finance Authority, and has served a total of 14,459 households.

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Dapice said the $40 million Homeowner Assistance Fund is likely to be depleted much more quickly, especially if each household applies for the maximum level of assistance. The state’s program includes a collaboration with a state nonprofit organization, Affordable Housing, Education, and Development (AHEAD), which will help homeowners connect with counseling and legal services to better understand their rights.

But the program will not likely change the overall picture of New Hampshire’s housing market, which has seen home prices hit record levels and availability of affordable homes plummet, Dapice said.

“This is a program that is short term by design, and is designed to keep people stably housed,” he said.

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But as for the skyrocketing price of homes, and the increasing utility bills brought on by global instability and inflation: “This is not a program that will solve those problems,” Dapice added.

“You know, that’s something that we have to really come at from, I think primarily the supply side, but that’s a different conversation,” he said.

Homeowners interested in applying for the Homeowner Assistance Fund can go to https://homehelpnh.org/.

This story was originally published by New Hampshire Bulletin.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: NH launches federally funded program to help struggling homeowners