Struggling homeowners with certain federally-backed mortgages got an additional reprieve Tuesday when the Biden administration extended several pandemic-era protections.
Homeowners with loans backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Agriculture will now be protected from foreclosures for another three months, through June 30, the White House said in a statement.
Plus, anyone who entered into a forbearance program prior to June 30 of last year will have up to six extra months to skip payments, adding on to the one year that was already available. In a third provision, the period to enroll in forbearance—set to end in February or March, depending on the type of loan—was also extended through June.
The move was said to be part of a coordinated federal effort to provide mortgage relief to households bearing the brunt of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, but does not affect the deadlines for the large chunk of mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The White House said the announcement applied to nearly 11 million loans, 2.7 million of which are currently in forbearance.
Federal protections first put in place at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have been extended multiple times as the economic crisis persists, helping to make foreclosures relatively rare despite a surge in unemployment. But many of the homeowners who have fallen behind on their payments have yet to get back on track, and could be in trouble if and when the mortgage relief ends.
Last week the Federal Housing Finance Agency extended a foreclosure ban on Fannie and Freddie mortgages through March 31 and extended the forbearance programs for those loans by up to three additional months. When asked to confirm Tuesday’s announcement didn’t affect these loans, a White House spokesperson simply said the FHFA extensions were announced last week.
In the $1.9 trillion rescue plan framework currently being fleshed out by Democratic lawmakers, President Joe Biden has suggested extending eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through Sept. 30, among other relief measures. The federal moratorium on rental evictions was notably absent from the Tuesday statement, though it did cite research showing nearly one in five renters are behind on their rent.
“This is great news, but millions of renters are counting the days until the eviction moratorium expires on March 31,” Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said on Twitter. “They need direct cash assistance and they need it now.”