HAF Programs are encouraged to critically analyze their offerings periodically to ensure that the needs of homeowners are being met. Engaging with homeowners on a regular basis about ongoing needs can help identify new supports and help avoid homeowner displacement, foreclosure, and utility shut offs. Additionally, reviewing denial data can offer other insights into changes a program can make to further address mortgage delinquencies and other issues with housing instability.
HAF Programs have the opportunity to identify new strategies to meet the needs of vulnerable homeowners beyond their existing HAF offerings and reallocate funding accordingly. Quantitative and qualitative data can inform budget allocation changes and help ensure program offerings meet homeowner needs and maximize the impact of HAF funds in communities across the country.
Over 22 million Americans live in roughly 8.4 million manufactured homes, and over 70% of these are homeowners. Manufactured homes can be placed on land that is owned by the homeowner or land that is rented. To finance the purchase of a manufactured home, many households obtain a personal property loan secured by the home itself rather than a traditional mortgage. These loans can come with significantly higher interest rates than traditional home mortgages. If a homeowner with a personal property loan falls behind on payments for the manufactured home or land rent, the home can be repossessed, a process with generally fewer consumer protections than foreclosure, or the homeowner can be evicted by the landowner. While the prevalence of manufactured housing varies across the country, it is often a less costly option than site-built homes. As of February 2022, approximately 71% of households living in manufactured housing earn less than $50,000 a year.
The State of Alabama assisted the owners of manufactured homes predominantly through lien extinguishments. Eliminating these debts removed the burden of high monthly payments on homeowners who were already facing financial hardship related to the COVID pandemic and were vulnerable to displacement. A high percentage of the manufactured housing properties in the lien-extinguishment program were in persistent poverty counties. By extinguishing these liens, homeowners were able to remain in their homes and be set on a sustainable pathway to housing stability.
HAF Programs also can provide similar housing stability support for homeowners burdened by other relatively modest liens such as liens created pursuant to tax loans and Property Assessed Clean Energy (or “PACE”) loans in certain jurisdictions.
From time to time, home repairs are a necessary expense for all homeowners to ensure a safe environment for their household. The habitability of a home can be affected by many factors, such as:
- Age of the structure: Homeowners with older homes, even those who do not have any mortgage debt, may have to replace or improve fixtures that are beyond their lifecycle. (The median age of owner-occupied homes in the United States is roughly 40 years.)
- Needs of household members: Senior residents may require home modifications to maintain habitability. Repairs, such as replacing a roof or mitigating mold, can maintain the habitability of the home and allow senior residents to age in place. In some cases, the reasonable addition of habitable space may alleviate overcrowding and reduce the likelihood of displacement.
- Natural disasters: Fire, floods, tornadoes, or ice storms, which can destroy a home’s physical structure at a high price to the homeowner if the loss is not fully insured.
Additionally, homeowners who have suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic may have delayed essential home repairs in order to pay other bills and obligations. Thus, home repair assistance may be an essential intervention to prevent displacement. Facilitating home repairs can make a home livable and safe for the homeowner to stay for years to come.
Mortgages with Partial Claim or Deferred Balances
Many homeowners who encountered financial hardships associated with the pandemic were able to find mortgage payment relief restructuring their mortgages. Often, these loss mitigation options have included moving a portion of the homeowner's mortgage obligation into a "partial claim" or "deferred balance" that must be repaid at a later date. While deferrals or partial claims do not accrue interest and help to reduce ongoing payments, they are secured by a lien on the homeowner's property and result in a lump-sum payment due at the mortgage’s maturity date or upon sale of the property. They also reduce the equity in the house, resulting in decreasing homeowners’ ability to refinance should they wish to make necessary home repairs or lower payments in the future. In addition, if a homeowner has exhausted a partial claim, it may not be an available tool for mortgage relief should the homeowner have subsequent financial difficulties. Programs that use HAF funds to pay off a deferred balance or partial claim can help homeowners increase their housing stability by recovering sufficient equity to support financial resiliency.
Tangled Titles/Clearing Titles
Intergenerational property transfers may lack proper documentation or even result in a former (possibly deceased) owner’s name on a deed. These so-called “tangled titles” may prevent occupants from obtaining a grant or loan to make urgent repairs, using home equity for home-related expenses, or accessing relief for property tax bills. By providing legal aid assistance and support for title clearing, HAF Programs can enable individuals to obtain a clear title and claim their rightful homeownership.
When households are unable to meet basic utility expenses like power and water, it is often a bellwether of a household’s financial instability. Homeowners who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially lower-income earners, may have postponed or simply not paid certain bills in order to maintain immediate necessities, such as keeping food on the table or medication prescriptions. As pandemic-related moratoriums on utility shut offs for water and electricity have expired, many homeowners found themselves owing several months of unpaid bills and risking shutoff of their heat, electricity, or running water.
 Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, Phase 3.3, Wave 42. Data Spotlight: Profiles of older adults living in mobile homes.
 United States Census Bureau. American Community Survey: Median Year Structure Built. 2021: ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables.