Local housing officials offer deed-restricted emergency mortgage assistance, but have yet to receive an application

Anomaly from metro areas

[ By Kendra Walker ]

A valuable resource is available to local deed-restricted homeowners in need of emergency mortgage assistance due to COVID-related hardships; however, a lack of applicants suggests that the valley is doing better than expected.

In partnership between the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA) and the Valley Housing Fund, an emergency mortgage assistance fund is available for deed restricted homeowners in Gunnison County. The fund was put in place last June in anticipation of the economic impacts of COVID and the global pandemic.

“In the past when folks would get behind financially, the town wouldn’t find out until later when they didn’t have in their budget to come up with money to save the unit,” said Valley Housing Fund chair Jim Starr. “We anticipated that folks would lose employment, and not be able to pay things like HOA dues. So we decided to set up the fund and encourage people to let us know before things were too far down.”

A total of $65,000 was, and still is, available to help assist deed restricted homeowners in paying delinquent property tax insurance, mortgage insurance, mortgage payments or HOA dues.

“You have to pay attention to the additional tax insurance, mortgage insurance and HOA delinquencies – you could lose your home if you don’t pay those,” said GVRHA executive director Jennifer Kermode. “We realized once COVID really started hitting that we wanted to make sure we were providing that assistance for those who needed it.”

Kermode explains the application is relatively straightforward, and also asks for a brief letter explaining the homeowner’s COVID-related difficulties. Applications and funding amounts are considered on a case-by-case basis. “We want to make sure we’re really serving based on need,” said Kermode. “We would like people to reach out before they’re 2 or $3,000 down in delinquencies. But we recognize that it’s a heck of a lot easier for someone to come to us for that larger need rather than trying to pay through a credit card or loan through a bank.”

However, GVRHA and the Valley Housing Fund received no applications in 2020, and have yet to receive interest this year. “We were anticipating that there would be need in June and July,” said Kermode. “But we had no formal requests and then our summer just took off like crazy. People were apparently successfully employed during the summer and into the fall and able to make payments. We really have not seen any need which is delightfully surprising.”

“That’s good news, it means folks are not getting behind in payments,” said Starr. “Nonetheless, it’s good to continue the fund because there will be invariable times that people can’t make those payments. If the fund is in place already it will make it much easier for our municipalities trying to protect those deed restrictions.”

Kermode shared that this is a bit of an anomaly from what larger metropolitan areas in the state are experiencing. “We’re not seeing that desperate need here locally. And hearing from my counterparts in smaller, rural, resort communities – they’re not seeing a lot of the rent issues or home mortgage payment issues that metropolitan areas are seeing either. We all had crazy summers with people escaping cities and wanting to be out in the wild.”

Last spring, the housing authority also offered a rental assistance program, deferring rents for those that needed a cushion during the pandemic. “Those few people that asked have since paid all their rent and caught up on their payments,” said Kermode. “That’s very encouraging for us, but again I think we are an anomaly from what we see around the rest of the state.” She said that from last March to last month, Gunnison County residents have requested a total of $42,000 from the state for both landlord and tenant assistance. “Which is extremely small,” said Kermode.

Kermode also notes that just because she hasn’t received much interest in the emergency mortgage fund doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a need. “Part of that may be that people aren’t aware that there are some other financial resources out there for rent or homeowner’s assistance.”

The emergency fund agreement between GVRHA and the Valley Housing Fund runs through March 31, but Starr and Kermode both anticipate their organizations will extend the opportunity hopefully through the end of the year, especially since the entire fund balance is still available. Kermode also says she hopes to utilize state resources to market the fund and push it out more widely to the public.

“We want to make this as easy and painless as possible,” she said. “We totally understand that people don’t want to ask for help, they want to be self-sufficient. So we want to make it as easy and confidential as possible.”

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