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FREE WEBINAR: Deferring Program Fees: COVID-19 Considerations

Suggested Audience(s): Nonprofit and municipal practitioners; Established programs
Webinar
Date: July 8th

Deferring Program Fees: COVID-19 Considerations – Post-Event Post

We know that many homeowners are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to health and safety challenges. Homeownership programs with lasting affordability are rightly seeking ways to support their homeowners in this challenging time, including reducing monthly housing costs where possible. In a webinar we held on July 8th, 2020, we reviewed the purpose and reasoning behind monthly ground lease or program fees, identified considerations for if and when to waive or defer fee collection, and highlighted some program’s approaches in response to COVID-19.

Program Fee Overview: Many shared equity homeownership programs collect regular lease fees or program fees, often with the dual goal of providing regular engagement with homeowners and supporting program operations. These fees vary widely and can be as low as $5 or as high as $100 per month. During this time of COVID-19 program administrators are seeking to mitigate some of the challenges to operations and collecting fees such as homeowner income loss/reduction, social distancing, and information overload/misinformation.

In response many programs are either deferring or waiving fees. When programs defer fees they expect to collect the fees eventually through a payment plan or at resale. When programs waive fees they will not collect fees during the waived period and the homeowners will not have to pay at a later date. Along with deferring or waiving fees, programs can leverage policy, procedures, and timeline changes to serve their homeowners.

Program Responses: Responses have varied widely across programs, often making policy, procedural or timeline changes in their work. Responses included:

  • Utilizing existing policies
  • Seeking Board approval of a new fee deferral or waiver plan
  • Focusing on other avenues for keeping housing costs down (e.g. working directly with lenders on forbearance, refinancing or interest rate reductions)
  • Requiring documentation of reduced hours, furlough, layoff or other loss of income to qualify for a deferral/waiver
  • Requiring no documentation beyond a request for a deferral
  • Requiring individuals to APPLY for unemployment benefits in order to access deferrals/waivers
  • Mirroring the mortgage forbearance process – if a homeowner is in forbearance, fees are automatically waived/deferred
  • Creating custom repayment plans for each homeowner
  • Providing a standard repayment plan for all homeowners
  • Limiting the timeframe under which a special deferral/waiver policy will apply (3 months to one year)

 

Program Highlight: Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County

  • Leveraged the personal connection with homeowners built over time
  • First outreach focused on refinancing
  • Second outreach provided detailed process on three-month policy for deferral
  • Required documentation, standard repayment plan, and minimal interest charge on deferred fees in a Board-approved COVID-19 specific policy

 

Program Highlight: City of Bridges Community Land Trust

  • Reached out personally to homeowners and lenders
  • Provided up to one year of waived fees with furlough/layoff documentation; executed a waiver agreement
  • Small ground lease fee and small portfolio meant this change does not impact organizational finances significantly
  • Flexible as a “young” and growing   organization with recent personal    connections with homeowners

Full Webinar Recording
 


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Webinar
Wednesday, July 8, 2020, 2:00 pm – 3 pm ET
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