A home in the foreclosure process. (Photo courtesy shutterstock.com)
A home in the foreclosure process. (Photo courtesy shutterstock.com)

Officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau want it known that information exists for struggling renters and homeowners who have been undermined by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many state-level jurisdictions, such as the District, have exhausted or time has run out, on rental and mortgage relief programs for people financially hurt due to the pandemic. Data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reveals over 7.5 million families are at risk of eviction and foreclosure. Black and Latino families are twice as likely to report being behind on their housing payments than white families, the CFPB data said. The agency also disclosed 39% of adults in households in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area not current on rent or mortgage could face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months.

However, Jessica Russell, the mortgage data assets program manager at the CFPB in the Office of Mortgage Markets, said the agency has compiled information to help people who are at risk of eviction or foreclosure.

“A lot of people have been hurt by the pandemic,” Russell said. “The Consumer Financial Bureau Protection agency doesn’t provide direct financial assistance to renters and homeowners who are recovering from the pandemic but we have information and tools that can help them get back on their feet.”

The CFPB operates as a federal agency responsible for consumer protection in the financial sector. The agency’s creation came as a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and its operations started a year later. Its work includes enhancing financial education, enforcing laws that outlaw bias in consumer finance and taking consumer complaints.

Tools to Fight Eviction and Foreclosure

Russell said people facing housing difficulties due to the pandemic can consult www.consumerfinance.gov/housing for the federal government’s unified hub, where renters and homeowners can find current information on their rights and protections, how to avoid scams and details on requesting forbearance, mortgage relief or help with back rent or utility payments.

Specifically for homeowners, Congress has authorized a nearly $10 billion Homeowner Assistance Fund program than can provide financial assistance with mortgage payments that include past due bills, homeowner’s insurance, utility bills, property taxes, homeowner’s association fees, home repairs and other housing costs.

Russell said some states have already implemented the Homeowner Assistance Fund and people should visit their state website for more information. She said people need to move fast in applying for the program and if needed, a U.S. Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling service should be consulted in addition to their mortgage servicer. She said information on the Homeowner Assistance Fund can be found on consumerfinance.gov.

Russell said if a forbearance – when a mortgage servicer allows a homeowner to temporarily pay their mortgage at a lower amount or pause payments – needs to be addressed, the homeowner should consult a housing counseling service and their servicer. Homeowners who are having problems with their forbearance can visit consumerfinance.gov/complaint or call toll free 855-411-2372.Regarding renters, the federal moratorium on evictions terminated on Aug. 26 but some states have extended protections for tenants. In the District, the federally-funded STAY DC program for renters no longer accepts applications but other public and private programs exist. Russell said the CFPB has launched a rental assistance finder available at www.consumerfinance.gov/renthelp. Renters encountering scammers should visit consumerfinance.gov for next steps.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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