• The San Juan Daily Star

US Treasury approves PR’s ARPA funds use plan to assist homeowners

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and Housing Financing Authority (AFV by its Spanish initials) Director Blanca P. Fernández González announced Monday that the U.S. Department of the Treasury approved Puerto Rico’s plan for the use of federal funds to help homeowners avoid defaulting on their mortgages.

The plan authorizes the use of $75.6 million to launch the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program on the island, which will be known locally as the Homeowners Assistance Program.

The HAF seeks to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners experiencing financial hardship after Jan. 21, 2020. Funds from the HAF may be used for assistance with mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utility payments, and other specified purposes. The law prioritizes funds for homeowners who have experienced the greatest hardships, leveraging local and national income indicators to maximize the impact.

The assistance comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) and is aimed at homeowners in Puerto Rico who have faced difficulties paying the mortgage on their primary residence, and other related expenses related to housing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I should emphasize that the Puerto Rico Homeowners Assistance Program is for homeowners who had material losses in their income due to the pandemic beginning in January 2020, and thus help them recover,” the governor said. “We estimate that at least 5,000 homeowners can benefit from this program in the 78 municipalities.”

“We have made sure the program is simple to apply for and qualify for,” he added. “The most important thing is to be able to help as many families as possible.”

The program will assist with the reinstatement of first and second mortgages, as well as homeowners’ housing costs, including taxes, insurance, other fees, and utilities.

Fernández González, the AFV director, noted that with the program “we have the main intention of helping homeowners to stay in their homes in a stable manner during the pandemic, although they have seen a decrease in their income due to different factors caused by the pandemic.”

There are a number of maximum assistance caps under the program, depending on the options for which the homeowner is eligible. If more than one type of assistance is obtained, all assistance combined would not exceed $21,000.

Eligibility requirements and eligible expenses for qualifying homeowners are the following:

1. The homeowner must be behind on at least one payment related to homeownership obligations (mortgage/home loan payment, property taxes, home-related insurance, utilities, homeowner/condo association fees, etc.)

2. The financial hardship should have started after Jan. 21, 2020 and be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. The homeowner must own and occupy their property as the primary residence in Puerto Rico. Property type must be eligible (living or individual trust).

4. Household income must not exceed 150 percent of the area median income.

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