Community Legal Services attorney Rachel Gallegos testified on June 10, 2021, in support of Councilmember Cherelle Parker’s resolution calling for swift state action on the Homeowners Assistance Fund (HAF) to help thousands of low- and moderate-income homeowners who have been affected by COVID and are at risk of foreclosure.
My name is Rachel Gallegos. I’m an attorney with Community Legal Services in the Homeownership and Consumer Rights Unit.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment in support of Resolution 210513 urging the Pennsylvania General Assembly to appropriate the full $350 million from the federal Homeowner Assistance Fund as soon as possible without imposing additional restrictions.
On behalf of its low-income homeowner clients, CLS is grateful for Council’s leadership in fighting to ensure that Philadelphia remains a city of homeowners. We are especially grateful for Councilmember Parker’s stalwart leadership on this issue and thank her for authoring this resolution.
Over 70,000 homeowners across Pennsylvania are now seriously delinquent on their mortgages because of the pandemic, including tens of thousands here in Philadelphia.
Fortunately, help is on the way.
The American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress in March, includes $350 million in funding for Pennsylvania to help low- and moderate-income homeowners who have been affected by the pandemic. This money will truly be a lifesaver for homeowners who have lost jobs, tapped savings, and borrowed money from family and friends in order to avoid foreclosure.
But now Harrisburg needs to take two important steps. First, the General Assembly must pass an appropriations bill sending the money to PHFA to administer the program. Second, state policy makers need to draft and submit a plan on how to spend the money. This must be done by the end of this month.
What exactly will this money mean?
It will mean that the restaurant server who lost hours, fell behind in her mortgage, but is now back to work, can get help paying off her back mortgage arrears and save her home.
It will mean that the senior with a reverse mortgage who helped her grandchildren during the pandemic, but is now facing a foreclosure of her own because she wasn’t able to keep up with the taxes and insurance, will get help to repay the mortgage company and save her home.
It will mean the family who had to cut back on work when their childcare provider closed, only to rack up hundreds of dollars in unpaid water, gas, and electric bills, will get help coming current on their utilities.
It will mean that homeowners, especially homeowners of color who have been nearly twice as likely as white homeowners to become unemployed during the pandemic, will be able to save their homes.
In short, it will mean that thousands of homeowners, not just in Philadelphia, but across Pennsylvania, who suffered economic hardships through no fault of their own, will receive assistance.
But homeowners will not be able to access the Homeowner Assistance Fund until the General Assembly acts.
Once again, Community Legal Services, on behalf of its low-income homeowners, thanks Councilmember Parker for introducing this resolution and urges that the resolution be adopted because although help is on the way, Philadelphia homeowners are running out of time, and swift state action is desperately needed.