DC program aims to help furloughed feds with mortgage payments

WASHINGTON — Furloughed federal workers who live in the District could be getting help with their mortgages from the D.C. government.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Housing Finance Agency on Wednesday announced the D.C. Mortgage Assistance Program, which will make zero-interest recourse loans of up to $5,000 a month available to D.C. federal workers.

“Many people — myself included — who make a monthly mortgage payment depend on having a steady paycheck to be able to do so,” Bowser said in a statement Wednesday. “Unfortunately, this unprecedented shutdown has created a tremendous amount of economic uncertainty for federal employees and their families, and so we are doing everything we can to ease the burden and alleviate stress.”

In announcing the program, she also described the District as being “in the belly of the beast” when it comes to the shutdown, pointing out that 70,000 federal workers live in D.C.

To be eligible for the loans, you have to be a full-time furloughed federal worker with a primary residence in the District. You also have to:

  • be able to prove you’re not eligible for forbearance through lenders;
  • have made no more than one mortgage payment 30 days late in 2018;
  • have a first trust mortgage loan current through last Dec. 31; and
  • be at risk for default possibly leading to foreclosure.

Anyone who gets one of these loans has to pay it back within 60 days of the federal government reopening or when back pay is made available, whichever comes first.

A total of $9 million is available for the loans.

Todd Lee, the executive director and CEO of the housing and finance agency, told WTOP he believed 1,000 homeowners could be helped through the program, and he said his calculations were based on a shutdown that would last for about three months.

The agency is an independent organization, and Lee said: “We maintain our own cash balances; this program is being fronted out of agency cash. … Sometimes we refer to this as our rainy-day fund, and we think it’s appropriate to use [this money] at this point, because it’s raining.”

“My personal life and professional life merge perfectly” in this, Lee said. “I’m in the affordable housing business.”

Some homeowners in the District could be early in their first homeownership, where a mortgage problem could make a huge impact on a worker’s financial life, Lee said; others could be building a family, while others could be senior citizens. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the life cycle; this is a really difficult situation for those who aren’t being paid.”

Homeowners can call 833-429-0537 starting Friday to start the application process.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

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