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HUD to Assist Victims of Hawaiian Wildfires

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced the implementation of federal disaster relief for the state of Hawaii to assist state, and local recovery efforts in the areas impacted by wildfires that began on August 8 and continue to damage the island. President Joe Biden has issued a major disaster declaration for Maui County.

“My prayers are with the people of Hawaii as they live with devastating wildfires. Many have lost their communities, homes and loved ones. I offer my deepest condolences to those who have lost someone they love during this devastation,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “I have directed my team to coordinate with local officials to assess impact, immediate needs, and plan for ultimate recovery efforts. HUD is invested in supporting your recovery and local HUD staff is on the ground to support.”

CoreLogic estimates that approximately 3,088 single- and multifamily residential properties with a combined reconstruction value (RCV) of $1.3 billion are within three preliminary wildfire perimeters on Maui.

Effective immediately, HUD is:

  • Providing a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) as well as foreclosures of mortgages to Native American borrowers guaranteed under the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee program. There is also a 90-day extension granted automatically for Home Equity Conversion Mortgages. The moratorium and extension are effective as of the President’s disaster declaration date.
  • Homeowners impacted by the disaster should contact their mortgage or loan servicer immediately for assistance. Conventional mortgage holders may also be eligible for additional relief through their mortgage holder.
  • Making mortgage insurance available: When homes are destroyed or damaged to an extent that required reconstruction or complete replacement, HUD’s Section 203(h) program provides FHA insurance to disaster victims. Borrowers from participating FHA approved lenders are eligible for 100% financing including closing costs.
  • Making insurance available for both mortgage and home rehabilitation-HUD's Section 203(k) loan program also allows individuals to finance the purchase or refinance of a house along with its repair through a single mortgage. Homeowners can also finance the rehabilitation of their existing homes if damaged.
  • Sharing information on housing providers and HUD programs: Information will be shared with FEMA and the state on housing providers that may have available units in the impacted counties, including Public Housing Agencies and multi-family owners.
  • Providing flexibility to Community Planning and Development Grantees: Recipients of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, Housing Opportunities for Persons With HIV/AIDS (HOPWA) Program, Continuum of Care (CoC) Program, Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program, HOME Program, and Housing Trust Fund (HTF) Program funds can apply for needed administrative flexibility in response to natural disasters.
  • Providing flexibility to Public Housing Agencies (PHAs): PHAs can apply for needed waivers and flexibilities for disaster relief and recovery.
  • Providing flexibility to Tribes: Tribes and their Tribally Designated Housing Entities can apply for needed administrative flexibility through regulatory waivers.
  • Ensuring HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are ready to assist: HUD-approved housing counseling agencies have counselors available to assist those impacted by natural disasters to determine assistance needs and available resources.
  • Assisting with housing discrimination: HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is available to assist people who believe they have experienced housing discrimination. If you think your rights have been violated, you should file a fair housing complaint with HUD.

“The source and ignition of the fire are still undetermined, but once the fire moved into the more developed regions of Lahaina, it appears the fire was able to intensify and spread very quickly,” said Dr. Thomas Jeffery, CoreLogic Principal Wildfire Scientist. “The winds likely pushed embers and flames into the built environment, and then the buildings in Lahaina became the primary source of fuel for the expansion of the fire. Many of the residential properties in Lahaina appear to have wood siding, and a number of them have elevated porches with a lattice underneath. Both are characteristics that make the residence very vulnerable to either ember or direct flame ignition. The reported wind speeds and comprehensive urban damage indicate that what likely happened in Lahaina was a true urban conflagration that could have been the result of an initial grass fire.”

HUD recently announced an overhaul of the agency’s disaster recovery efforts to better serve communities who face the direct impacts of weather-related disasters. Based on the increasing number of disasters and the increasingly important role that HUD is playing in federal government’s preparedness, response, and recovery efforts, the Department established the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, the Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) within the Office of Community Planning and Development and has added of dozens of new HUD staff members to help expedite recovery processes. These steps will streamline the agency’s disaster recovery and resilience work by increasing coordination, reducing bureaucracy, and increasing capacity to get recovery funding to communities more quickly by facilitating collaborative, transparent disaster recovery planning with communities earlier in the process.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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