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R.I. launches $50 million homeowner assistance fund

The program will help Rhode Island homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgages or other housing-related expenses due to the pandemic

PROVIDENCE — For Rhode Island-based homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments, a new government assistance program may be able to help.

The governor’s office and Rhode Island delegation Monday announced a new $50 million program that will help provide financial assistance to eligible Rhode Island homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgage payments or other housing-related expenses due to the pandemic.

The program, Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island (HAF-RI), is designed to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners that have experienced financial hardships.

Eligible applicants must be below certain income limits, which vary by household size; must own and occupy a one- to four-unit dwelling in Rhode Island, and must be experiencing a COVID-19 related financial hardship after Jan. 21, 2020. Applicants must also have an original mortgage balance that was less than $548,250.

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Eligible applicants can receive up to 24 months of assistance, but will not exceed $50,000.

Expenses that qualify for financial assistance through the program include mortgage arrearages, monthly mortgage payments, principal reduction, property taxes, homeowner association fees, and condominium association fees. Those who qualify can also receive payment assistance for utilities, flood or mortgage insurance, or other mortgage-related expenses.

Applicants awarded funds will have payments sent directly to the mortgage servicer, utility provider or other entity owed housing-related costs.

“For many, owning a home represents the American Dream and is likely the greatest source of economic and social stability for owner households,” said Carol Ventura, executive director of RIHousing, an agency tasked with administration of the program.

She said the HAF-RI program provides “vital resources” for struggling Rhode Island homeowners that will be a “critical tool to help ease the pain of the pandemic” during the state’s housing crisis.

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Senator Jack Reed started the creation of the $10 billion federal Homeowner Assistance Fund that was approved as part of the American Rescue Plan package, which passed in Congress last spring. Rhode Island received $50 million in funds for homeowners.

Senator Reed spearheaded the creation of the $10 billion federal Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) that was approved as part of the coronavirus stimulus package last spring. Rhode Island has received $50 million in HAF funds for struggling Rhode Island homeowners.

Reed said the application window is open and encouraged any Rhode Island homeowners experiencing financial hardship to “apply as soon as possible.”

“I created this program to help prevent people from losing their homes,” said Reed in a statement. “This is another example of the federal government giving states the resources to cope with impacts of the pandemic – in this case, averting further problems in our already stressed housing market.”

Community-based agencies will soon be able to provide application assistance, according to the governor’s office.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.