WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is extending a ban on home foreclosures for federally backed mortgages by three months and expanding a mortgage relief program in a push to stabilize the nation’s housing affordability crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The foreclosure moratorium was set to expire March 31 and instead will be in place through June 30. It’s the second time Biden has extended the ban after he used one of his record number of Day One executive actions to push back a previous Jan. 31 end date.
The Biden administration Tuesday also will extend the enrollment window to request a mortgage payment forbearance – which allows borrowers to pause or reduce mortgage payments – until June 30. That program also was scheduled to end in March.
As a result of a third action, the federal government will now allow borrowers to defer mortgage payments for an additional six months. Eligible homeowners must be enrolled in a forbearance plan by the end of June.
There are currently 11 million federal government-backed mortgages nationwide. Around 2.7 million homeowners are enrolled in COVID-19 forbearance plans.
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In a statement, the White House said Biden is committed to protecting home ownership and housing stability during the pandemic, calling the extended forbearance and foreclosure programs “an important step towards building stronger and more equitable communities.”
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The White House said the extended protections are in part aimed at prioritizing communities of color hit hardest by the pandemic. Homeowners of color make up a disproportionate share of the home owners with delinquent loans or on forbearance plans.
However, Tuesday’s actions do not address the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal moratorium on evictions for not paying rent. That moratorium is also set to expire March 31. About one-third of all Americans, roughly 107 million people, are renters.
The Biden administration has been meeting with stakeholders to assess their next steps on the eviction policy, according to a White House official, but did not offer additional details.
The foreclosure and eviction prevention measures pre-date the Biden administration. Former President Donald Trump last extended the moratorium on federally backed foreclosures in August. Through the CDC, Trump in September initiated a four-month moratorium on evictions for renters unable to make payments.
In Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which he’s pushing Congress to pass in the coming weeks, the president has proposed a $10 billion Homeowners Assistance Fund that would provide states with federal assistance to help homeowners with mortgage payments and utility costs.
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The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, last week issued a three-month forbearance extension to borrowers. According to the White House, the actions collectively cover 70% of existing single-family home mortgages. None apply to the 30% of mortgages that are privately owned.
More than 10 million adults live in a household that is not caught up on mortgage payments, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, citing the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey.
Tuesday’s actions are being made through a coordinated effort by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Agriculture departments. Homeowners and renters can learn about available relief options and deadlines at consumerfinance.gov/housing.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.