The Lead

Advocates call on PHFA, courts to halt foreclosures citing assistance program delays

By: - June 27, 2023 5:15 pm

(Getty Images)

Homeowners, community advocates and state lawmakers are urging Pennsylvania courts and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to work together to temporarily halt foreclosures for homeowners who have applications pending for a pandemic-era mortgage assistance program. 

The Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund, which is administered by PHFA, began in February 2022, using federal COVID-relief dollars to help financially strained homeowners remain in their homes. 

The program, which began in February 2022, and was turned over to the PHFA from a third-party vendor earlier this year, now requires individuals with pending applications to re-register for assistance because the applicant information was not recovered from the previous vendor. 

The program is also hampered by long processing delays with some homeowners waiting more than a year for a determination to be made, all while falling further behind on housing payments. 

“This program saves homes and helps people get back on track with their mortgages,” Rachel Labush, an attorney for Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, said. “We need to make sure that no one loses their home while they are waiting for help.”

PHFA has received more than 18,000 applications for assistance, state Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia, said at a press conference on Tuesday, and just 30% have reapplied. 

He said that around 12,000 applicants have not yet reapplied for assistance. 

“We cannot let them fall through the cracks,” Hohenstein said. “And that’s exactly what is happening.”

Advocates estimate that approximately $220 million of the program’s allocated $350 million remains unspent.

In a June 21 statement, PHFA said it has, so far, reached approximately 450 applicants. 

“This month, every applicant that has not yet done their access point setup will receive both an email and a letter via the U.S. Postal Service from PAHAF with the same information about how to do so,” the agency wrote. “PHFA recognizes the urgent need for many Pennsylvanians to receive financial assistance from PAHAF and is working diligently and methodically to ensure that federal funds are appropriately distributed. The program’s top priority is outreach to all current applicants to ensure they are properly set up in the system in order to quicken the processing of their application.”

Still, advocates and lawmakers say they are frustrated that millions of dollars are available to Pennsylvanians in need, and yet, the money is not being distributed. 

State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, speaks at press conference on a PHFA administered mortgage assistance program in the Capitol on Tuesday, June 27, 2023 (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

“PHFA must resolve this and must resolve this in a way that keeps people in their homes,” state Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, said. 

Homeowners who have previously applied to the program should contact PHFA at (888)987-2423 to reapply for assistance.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.