February 8, 2021

The Honorable Nancy P. Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Democratic Leader
U.S Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Republican Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy:

We are writing to urge you to include desperately needed relief to struggling homeowners in the COVID-19 relief package before Congress. Specifically, we request that it include $25 billion for direct assistance to homeowners with COVID-19 hardships, who disproportionately represent communities of color hurt most by the pandemic, with the bulk of the funds deployed through state housing finance agencies through the Homeowner Assistance Fund and including at least $100 million for housing counseling and $39.7 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis are devastating homeowners, particularly in communities of color which have not yet recovered from the 2008 Great Recession. While CARES Act and COVID-related forbearance by servicers has provided breathing room for many homeowners, this assistance does not cover those whose homes are at risk due to tax foreclosure, past-due homeowner association fees and other threats to home retention. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that there are currently 3.8 million homeowners who are past due on their mortgages. Over half of these homeowners are people of color, according to Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data for the period January 6-18. Black and Hispanic mortgage holders were more than twice as likely as white homeowners to report being late on their mortgage.

Mortgage payment assistance will be critically important to the nearly 3 million borrowers that remain in long-term forbearance plans from their mortgage servicers. While forbearance provides a temporary bridge for borrowers experiencing hardships, exiting long-term forbearance will be a challenge for those borrowers whose incomes have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Recent homebuyers that relied on low- or no-down payment loans from FHA, VA or the Rural Housing Service are at particular risk, as even six months of forbearance can put borrowers underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their home is worth. Moreover, these borrowers are predominantly Black and Latinx families, first-time buyers and low- to moderate-income families.

The Homeowner Assistance Fund, modeled on the Hardest Hit Fund created a decade ago, would enable state housing finance agencies to help homeowners with COVID-19 hardships, including providing direct assistance with mortgage payments, helping people get into affordable loan modifications, and assisting with utility payments, property tax and insurance payments, home owner association dues and other support to prevent the loss of home equity, mortgage delinquency, default, foreclosure, or loss of utility services. The Black homeownership rate today is as low as it was in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed. We cannot begin to tackle the racial homeownership and wealth gaps if we do not take steps to prevent a wave of COVID-induced foreclosures and loss of home equity.

We also support additional funding for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies and legal assistance, as they both play essential roles in helping homeowners avoid foreclosure. HUD-approved housing counseling agencies play a critical role in ensuring homeowners get the individualized help and relief they need to stay in their homes, including through effective communication with their servicer and addressing credit and financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. As noted above, funding for Qualified Fair Housing Organizations and Qualified Fair Housing Enforcement Organizations must be prioritized. Fair housing groups are experiencing an uptick in cases since the onset of the pandemic, and additional funding would further protect vulnerable households experiencing housing-related dislocations

A critical lesson of the Great Recession is that the communities most impacted need targeted, early intervention. Acting now to include these key provisions in the pending COVID-19 relief package will help stem what could be a damaging housing crisis in the U.S. concentrated in low-income communities and communities of color.


Americans for Financial Reform
Center for Community Progress
Center for Responsible Lending
Community Home Lenders Association
Consumer Action
Consumer Credit and Budget Counseling, Inc d/b/a National Foundation for Debt Management
Consumer Federation of America
Credit Card Management Services, Inc.
Faith and Community Empowerment (FACE)
Framework Homeownership
Guild Mortgage
Habitat for Humanity International
Housing Assistance Council
Housing Partnership Network
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
Low Income Investment Fund
Mortgage Bankers Association
National Association of Real Estate Brokers
National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies
National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)
National Community Stabilization Trust
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)
National Council of State Housing Agencies
National Disaster Interfaith Network
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Housing Conference
National Housing Law Project
National Housing Resource Center
National Leased Housing Association
National NeighborWorks Association
National Organization for Women
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
Prosperity Now
Public Counsel
SKA Marin
The Elevated Studio