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Housing

Colorado launches program to help homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments

Money is available to cover 3 months of past-due mortgage payments, but it may be too late for some homeowners in the foreclosure process.

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A new Colorado pilot program to help struggling homeowners make past-due mortgage payments is now up and running and offering up to three months of payments. 

The Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, or EMAP, has been in development since $10 billion in the American Rescue Plan was set aside by Congress in March for housing aid. The U.S. and Colorado already have a program for struggling renters.

Colorado’s share of the new federal Homeowner Assistance Fund is $175.1 million and the state’s Department of Local Affairs is using 10% for EMAP, according to state Division of Housing officials. 

“We will be closely watching the demand for this program in partnership with our local nonprofit administrators,”  state Director of Housing Recovery Sarah Buss said in an email. “The demand will help shape how the remaining federal funds are programmed to best serve Colorado homeowners.”

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Buss said that EMAP is just one of several programs that the state Division of Housing is working on to distribute the federal money. 

“The other HAF programs must ultimately be submitted to the U.S. Treasury for final review and approval, after which DOH will work to roll out the other programs, in early 2022,” Buss said.

Help for homeowners was paused after new the federal relief package that was approved in December provided funding only for renters. The state’s program for homeowners ran out of money, so Colorado had to end the mortgage relief program for homeowners

Some homeowners, however, could still take advantage of mortgage forbearance, which allowed for postponing payments on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. But it wasn’t forgiveness. Borrowers still had to pay the months missed. And borrowers with private loans didn’t qualify for forbearance unless their lender approved it.

“The mortgage relief programs have been difficult,” said Michelle Mitchell, president of the Colorado Housing Assistance Corp., which helps families save their homes from foreclosure. 

EMAP provides payments with no need to repay them back, much like the existing rent-assistance program. But coming 20 months into the pandemic, it’s difficult to say how many homeowners, especially in Colorado, still need mortgage assistance today or could have really used it several months ago. 

Foreclosure filings have increased nationwide and were up 68% in the third quarter compared to a year ago, according to Attom, a California-based research service that tracks foreclosures. Colorado had 361 foreclosure filings in the third quarter of 2021, up 25.7 percent from the second quarter and up 86.7% from the third-quarter last year. But Colorado was in better condition than other states, ranking 42nd nationwide for highest foreclosure rates, at one out of every 6,611 housing units.

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The number of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac home loans in forbearance declined to 1.1 million in October, down from the June 2020 peak of 4.3 million, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Colorado numbers were not available.

“The numbers of delinquent homeowners and those who say they are at risk are huge,” Mitchell said. “What’s missing from most of what I’ve seen is how those numbers translate into dollars. … I have no idea if it’s enough, too much or not enough.” 

The U.S. Treasury is only now approving state housing programs funded with Homeowner Assistance Fund relief so more states are expected to announce their mortgage assistance plans soon. Arizona also debuted its program this week. 

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In Colorado, homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgages — FHA or private — can apply for up to three months of aid. They will need to talk to a counselor for additional months. The money can also be used for at least three months of past or future payments, though results from the pilot will help determine the “proper program maximums,” according to DOLA officials.

There are eligibility requirements. The homeowner must live in the home, which must be in Colorado. They can make no more than 100% of the county’s median income. In Denver, that’s roughly $73,360 for a single person or $104,800 for a family of four, according to Denver’s 2021 area median income chart.

Applicants must also attest that they experienced a financial hardship after Jan. 21, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The payments can be used on past-due mortgage bills, but if the house is in foreclosure, Division of Housing officials will have to work with the lender to see if the foreclosure can be stopped. “These will be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Buss said.

Colorado is relying on digital tools already used to provide rent to tenants in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, including Neighborly software to enroll in the program.

After some problems rolling out, the state’s rent assistance program is processing applications and payments at a much faster rate than in June. In September, the state’s rent program had paid out $39.9 million in monthly rent to Coloradans for a total of $144.8 million as of Sept. 30, according to data from the U.S. Treasury. Renters can apply for up to 15 months of past-due and future rent payments.

The renter program has also met the minimum payments required to provide federal renter relief as of Oct. 4, according to DOLA. The agency is now working on rolling out the second phase of renter assistance, called ERA2.

While the EMAP program is primarily available to homeowners who experienced financial hardship because of COVID, the state’s Housing Recovery office will consider other non-pandemic-related applications.

“(If) you had a hardship prior to Jan. 1, 2020, we will consider assistance for unpaid mortgage during that pre-2020 period,” Buss said.


Colorado Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program

Eligibility requirements:

  • Must own a home in Colorado and live in it
  • Income must be no more than the county’s median average 
  • Must prove financial hardship due to the pandemic, which means showing a financially negative impact due to COVID-19. 
  • Must provide either 2020 federal tax forms or certify and document income of all members of the household. 

What’s available:

  • Up to three months of past-due mortgage payments or future payments
  • Available to all single home mortgage holders who meet eligibility requirements
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