A new $197 million program to help Arizona homeowners hurt by the pandemic pay their mortgages is now taking applications.
About 80,000 Arizona homeowners are in forbearance or behind on their mortgage payments now, according to the Arizona Department of Housing. The state agency is administering the mortgage aid.
Eligible homeowners can get up to $25,000 to pay 12 months of past-due mortgage, utility, internet, insurance and tax bills from the Arizona Homeowner Assistance Fund. Money is also available to make future mortgage payments for households still struggling due to COVID-19.
The aid comes as the number of eviction filings in Maricopa County more than doubled recently. Though metro Phoenix trustee sale filings — the first step lenders must take to foreclose — are still very low compared to foreclosures during the housing crash.
“This is direct and immediate aid,” said Tom Simplot, director of the state housing agency. “If you’re behind on your mortgage payments, we can send funds directly to your home loan servicer to bring you current.”
To qualify, Arizona homeowners can make up to 150% of an area’s median income, so the aid will be available to many.
As federal forbearance plans began to expire in August, the number of notice of trustee filings, or pre-foreclosures, climbed to 139 in Maricopa County.
During the first 15 months of the pandemic, the pre-foreclosure court filings didn’t top 85 a month due to forbearances.
During 2019, lenders typically filed between 400 and 500 notice of trustee sales per month.
During the housing crash in March 2009, lenders filed to start foreclosing on more than a record 10,000 metro Phoenix homes.
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan’s $9.961 billion set aside for hurting homeowners.
“We want to make sure families stay in their homes and continue to have a roof over their heads,” Gov. Doug Ducey said. “As Arizona emerges out of the pandemic and our economy grows, many hardworking individuals who fell on hard times are still trying to find their financial footing.”
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.