• Property owners can earn more and still qualify for help
By Mary Steurer
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — More Wyoming homeowners than ever now qualify for a federally funded program for people struggling to pay housing costs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Homeowner Assistance Fund, managed by the Wyoming Department of Family Services, provides up to $17,000 in relief for qualifying homeowners. The money can be used to cover things like delinquent mortgage payments, overdue utilities bills, property taxes — and as of this spring, up to three months of forward mortgage payments.
It’s funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.
The program is restricted to people making less than 150% of their county’s area median income, a metric published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and updated every spring.
After the most recent adjustment, 150% of the area median income for a two-person household is considered $111,000 in most Wyoming counties. Previously, that same limit was around $105,000.
The cap is higher in wealthier parts of the state, though. In Teton County, for example, a two-person household making up to $153,250 could apply to the program, so long as they met the other necessary requirements.
A full chart breaking down eligibility by county and household size can be found on the Department of Family Services’s website.
To qualify, applicants must own a home in Wyoming (including on the Wind River Reservation), and occupy that home as their primary residence. They also have to show that they’ve experienced a “COVID-related financial hardship,” which can include things like loss of income, unexpected expenses and more.
There’s still a lot of money to go around.
Originally, the Department of Family Services received $50 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to start up the Homeowner Assistance Fund.
As of Friday, the agency had doled out about $9.2 million of it to 1,190 applicants total, according to the Department of Family Services’ website.
The vast majority of the money — $8.3 million — went toward paying delinquent mortgages, while $434,000 went to forward mortgages, $332,000 went to overdue utilities costs, $78,000 went to property taxes, $28,000 went to homeowners association fees and another $5,000 went to homeowners insurance.
To apply to the Homeowner Assistance Fund, or to check if you qualify, visit wyohaf.org.
The new area median income numbers expand eligibility for several other social programs, too. HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program — commonly referred to as Section 8 — is limited to people making less than or equal to 50% of the area median income in their county, for example.
Wyoming’s state-level property tax refund program, meanwhile, is restricted to people making no more than 125% of the statewide area median income or the area median income in their county of residence, whichever ceiling is higher.
The program is now accepting applications for the 2022 tax year.
To qualify, homeowners must also meet the following criteria:
- have been a resident of Wyoming for at least five years;
- have lived in Wyoming for more than six months out of the 2022 tax year;
- own less than $150,000 in household assets per adult in the home.
The deadline to apply to the program is June 5. (Under Wyoming state statute, counties can also create their own property tax relief programs, but only Teton County currently offers it. According to the county’s website, details on how to apply to the local version of the program will be posted in July.)