As North Carolina residents face challenges recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are initiatives in Orange County and across the state for homeowner assistance.
Eligible homeowners can now apply to receive substantial financial assistance through the NC Homeowner Assistance Fund, which began accepting applications in January.
The fund will continue to accept applications as long as funding is available.
Orange County residents can also receive aid through the Orange County Emergency Housing Assistance program.
Board of County Commissioners Chairperson Renee Price said both of the programs are a big help to the community.
“If we’re going to be a healthy, vibrant Orange County, then we have to make sure that our people have safe, secure housing and that their needs are met,” Price said.
Assistance for homeowners in North Carolina
The NC Homeowner Assistance Fund was established through the American Rescue Plan Act, a national plan to provide direct relief and stimulate the economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina was allocated $273 million as part of the act.
The fund provides assistance to prevent mortgage delinquencies, displacements and foreclosures for homeowners who have experience financial hardship due to COVID-19, according to its website.
Housed under the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, the fund provides up to $40,000 to qualified homeowners.
“Ensuring that families have stable housing has always been our mission, and that has become even more critical during this ongoing public health crisis,” Scott Farmer, executive director of the Housing Finance Agency, said in a Jan. 31 press release.
North Carolina homeowners are eligible if they experienced a financial hardship on or after Jan. 21, 2021, if they require help with expenses related to their primary residence and if their income is below $79,900. However, some exceptions are made depending on household size and county of residence.
The fund lasts through 2026, but Connie Helmlinger, manager of public relations and marketing for the NC Housing Finance Agency, said the agency does not project it will last that long based on applications received thus far.
As of Friday, they had received almost 5,000 applications, which would total to about $75 million of the $273 allocated to the state if all of those applications were approved, she said.
Orange County Housing & Community Development Director Corey Root said the department's Housing Helpline informs homeowners about the fund.
“We are really thrilled to have those resources available,” she said. “We were paying those locally, so that frees up our local dollars to be used for renters, which is a huge need as well.”
Homeowners can register for the NC Homeowner Assistance Fund online or by calling 855-696-2423.
Other assistance in the county
The Orange County Emergency Housing program was created to help residents stay in stable housing.
Root said the program is a collaboration between the county and the towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough. It was created in the Spring of 2020, right before the pandemic began, she said.
“We are really happy that that groundwork was laid because we saw this huge increase in the demand for housing assistance,” Root said. “Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve issued almost $10 million in rent and utility assistance.”
Households that are less than 30% of the area’s median income need housing assistance because of pandemic-related issues and cannot cover housing costs are eligible for this program.
Root said the program helps people keep their housing.
“We want folks to be able to maintain their housing so they aren’t having to find a new place to live, which is a really hard thing to find,” she said. “Folks that are in affordable housing, we want them to be able to maintain their housing.”
Orange County residents can apply to the Orange County Emergency Housing Assistance online or by calling or emailing the Housing Helpline at 919-245-2655 or HousingHelp@orangecountync.gov. The current review period for applications is about four weeks.
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