Housing industry gears up to face Hurricane Harvey

The housing industry is gearing up for Hurricane Harvey, which is approaching the Texas coast and is expected to make landfall by Friday night or early Saturday morning.

The hurricane is expected to increase to a category three storm by the time it hits the coast, according to an article by Nicole Chavez, Eric Levenson and Joe Sterling for CNN.

This life-threatening storm could leave parts of south Texas uninhabitable for months, according the National Weather Service in Houston. The CNN article explained this type of language hasn’t been used since Hurricane Katrina.

Freddie Mac sent out a reminder of its disaster relief policies Friday, urging families affected by the storm to contact their mortgage servicer.

“We strongly encourage the many American families whose homes or businesses are being impacted by Hurricane Harvey to call their mortgage servicer if the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declaration is announced,” said Yvette Gilmore, vice president of single-family servicer performance management at Freddie Mac. “Relief, including forbearance on mortgage payments for up to one year, may be available if their mortgage is owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac.”

Here are some of the disaster relief policies Freddie Mac offers:

  • Suspending foreclosures by providing forbearance for up to 12 months
  • Waiving assessments of penalties or late fees against borrowers with disaster-damaged homes.
  • Not reporting forbearance or delinquencies caused by the disaster to the nation’s credit bureaus

Fannie Mae also sent out a reminder for servicers and homeowners, encouraging them to stay safe and take advantage of Fannie’s disaster relief policies.

“At this time, it is important for those in the path of the storm to focus on their safety as they deal with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey,” said Carlos Perez, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief credit officer.  “The primary focus of Fannie Mae and our servicers continues to be with the homeowners who have been impacted by this disaster and to ensure assistance is offered to borrowers and communities in need.”

Fannie Mae’s disaster relief guidelines allow servicers to suspend or reduce a homeowner’s mortgage payment for up to 90 days if the servicer believes a natural disaster brought down the value or habitability of the property or if the natural disaster temporarily impacted the homeowner’s ability to make payments on their mortgage.

Servicers do not need to contact homeowners in order to suspend payments for 90 days, but after contacting the homeowner, they can offer forbearance for up to six months, which can be extended an additional six months as needed for homeowners that were current or less than 90-days delinquent at the time of the storm.

But the GSEs aren’t the only ones stepping up in the wake of the storm. Short-term rental site Airbnb announced it launched its Disaster Rental Program to help Texans evacuate from Hurricane Harvey.

This program offers evacuees housing in major emergency events, and encourages its hosts to offer their homes up for free.

“We encourage hosts in safe, inland areas to aid in this effort by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform to help the growing number of evacuees,” said Kellie Bentz, Airbnb head of global disaster response and relief. “Our thoughts continue to be with everyone in the path of the storm, and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe.”

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