By RICHARD FERGUSON, President, CBC Mortgage Agency
There’s a crisis upon us, and the economic repercussions are only beginning to be understood. What we do know is that COVID-19 is causing a severe shock and loss of income, in particular to the new homeowners we’ve striven so hard to help.
We also know that today’s troubling environment is very fluid, and that things could change in an instant. Currently, there is talk about a potential government-backed payment holiday for those who lose their job or income as a result of the pandemic. But details are short at the moment.
What can be done in the meantime? For us, the answer is simple—helping borrowers who bought their homes using down payment assistance (DPA) keep their homes during this crisis and beyond.
At CBC Mortgage Agency (CBCMA), we believe that everyone in our country should have access to affordable housing. That’s why we help credit-worthy low- and moderate-income individuals buy homes through the Chenoa Fund DPA program, which helps borrowers clear the down payment hurdles that keep many from realizing their homeownership dreams. But this is only one part of our mission. We’re also committed to helping borrowers stay in their homes, especially during unique circumstances like the ones they face today.
For example, many of our borrowers receive a second mortgage that is forgivable. But as a condition of that forgiveness, a borrower needs to maintain timely payments on the first mortgage during the first three years of the loan. Since the pandemic, questions have poured in from borrowers who are concerned about the status of their loan forgiveness, should they lose their jobs in the current economic environment.
In response, we announced that any borrowers affected by the economic fallout from the coronavirus will not lose the forgivable feature of their down payment assistance loan. In addition, we are also staying in touch with borrowers and educating them after their loans close by utilizing a 12-month post-purchase support program that is unique in our industry.
In 2017, we partnered with Money Management International, a HUD-approved, nonprofit credit counseling organization. Money Management International helps our borrowers transition from renting into homeownership and advises them during times of difficulty, like many are facing today. This is accomplished through regularly scheduled phone calls with our borrowers in addition to emails and texts.
So, what are we telling our borrowers? As the barrage of constant coronavirus news coverage unfolds, we advise people not to overreact. Being stressed about the virus and its impacts, including the effect on income, is a natural response. We counsel against panicking and acting irrationally, which could worsen the impact on the borrower’s family.
Secondly, we counsel borrowers to reduce the impact of the pandemic by cutting their expenses. This includes not overbuying supplies and not making future travel and event plans that include non-refundable fees. We are also encouraging borrowers to reach out to their creditors if their income is being disrupted by the pandemic.
Lastly, borrowers are encouraged to stay current on their mortgages if possible. If a borrower is facing economic disruption, we counsel them by reviewing their budget and finding ways for them to prioritize their spending.
CBCMA is committed to keeping borrowers in their homes during this time of difficulty. We expect to continue getting calls from borrowers asking us for help in dealing with their challenges, and we will continue stepping up to provide assistance. Doing so is just as important as helping borrowers overcome down payment barriers so they can afford the dream of homeownership—which is a dream worth protecting, especially today.
Read our letter being sent to CBCMA customers by clicking here.
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Richard Ferguson is president of CBC Mortgage Agency, a nationally chartered housing finance agency and a leading source of down payment assistance that helps low-income consumers, often in minority neighborhoods, achieve the dream of homeownership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.