New threats to home ownership target communities of color

Vidya Sethuraman
India Post News Service

The California Mortgage Relief program, launched Dec. 2021 and expanded in early 2023, has provided millions of dollars in aid to thousands of financially struggling homeowners, many of who are of color.

Joe Jaramillo
Joe Jaramillo, Senior Attorney, Housing & Economic Rights Advocates (HERA)

When the funds run out, however, more homeowners will be at risk of foreclosure than ever as they struggle with keeping the family home after a parent or grandparent passes away, zombie mortgage, and predatory clean energy PACE financing.

In the EMS Briefing on November 2nd, housing rights attorneys and mortgage experts explained these threats and what homeowners can do to hang on, while homeowners facing these threats shared their stories of how they’re struggling to keep their family homes.

Joe Jaramillo, Senior Attorney, Housing & Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) said that as the epidemic ends, many families in California are indeed facing the dilemma of having their homes repossessed due to loan repayments.

He said the main threats facing vulnerable homeowners are “keeping the family home when a parent or grandparent passes away; financing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs which risk the borrower’s home if unpaid; and “zombie” second mortgages “that haunt borrowers with unexpected bills and threats of foreclosure.”

“It sounds good in theory,” said Jaramillo, “but many salespeople and contractors target low-income households and misrepresent costs or install non-functioning improvements like solar panels.”

Rebecca Franklin,
Rebecca Franklin, President, the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA)

Rebecca Franklin, President, the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) said that the California mortgage relief program, funded by the federal government, was launched in March 2021 and expanded in early 2023.

This reduction and exemption plan is tailor-made for those who have difficulty repaying their housing. It provides each household with a maximum of $80,000 in mortgage relief. Over the past two years, it has spent $650 million to provide mortgage relief for more than 20,000 households with difficulty in repaying their loans, or allowing them to keep up with their mortgage payments.

Franklin said that communities of color have been particularly hard hit during the epidemic, so the government has adopted various methods to help. People in need can contact the California Housing Finance Agency.

Franklin said that applications for the California Mortgage Relief Program have certain review thresholds. The applied house must be the home where the borrower mainly lives, and the borrower’s family must be low-to-moderate-income. She said even if you don’t meet the requirements, they will refer you to housing legal assistance and support, which is currently available in six languages and is free of charge.