Fannie Mae is Here to Help: Getting the Right Information into the Right Hands During COVID-19
As the economic effects of the coronavirus began to sweep across the country last year, it quickly became clear that millions of people were at risk of losing their houses or being displaced from their apartments. As one of the nation's leading sources of mortgage financing, Fannie Mae recognized that we had a unique opportunity to ensure the stability of the market, help lenders and servicers stay in business, and help homeowners and renters stay in their homes.
Working closely with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), lenders, servicers, and multifamily borrowers, we swung into action, rapidly rolling out tools and resources to help keep housing strong through the pandemic. From the beginning, our response to the pandemic was guided by the principle of putting people first.
We quickly created new solutions for homeowners and renters, giving them new options for staying in their homes and apartments. But as we learned from the 2008 global financial crisis, creating policies and programs is only half the battle. Equally important is getting the right information about those programs into the right hands.
In early Spring 2020, as the magnitude of the pandemic spread, homeowners and renters were confused about their options or, in many cases, didn’t know that they had any. Our research showed that 61% of homeowners with a mortgage were unaware of COVID-19 mortgage relief. Our mortgage lending and servicing partners, and our own call centers, were dealing with high volumes of frustrated homeowners and renters who had heard inaccurate or misleading information.
To combat the confusion, we created the "Here to Help" education program to inform homeowners, renters, servicers, lenders, and multifamily property owners about available housing assistance options, and a highly targeted marketing and communications campaign to deliver the information to them.
We launched our Here to Help online portal at KnowYourOptions.com on an easy-to-use platform. The site features informative videos, fact sheets, a Loan Lookup Tool for homeowners to determine if Fannie Mae owns their mortgage loan, interactive resources with clear explanations of how to suspend or delay mortgage payments (a process known as forbearance), options for repaying missed payments, and free financial counseling services.
For renters, we developed straight-forward information to understand rent relief and assistance options, and tenant protections. Fannie Mae extended access to free financial counseling to all renters in apartment buildings financed by Fannie Mae, and created a Renters Resource Finder so people could determine if they were eligible.
To date, our Renters Resource Finder and Loan Lookup Tool have been accessed nearly a million times.
We also collaborated with our network of servicing partners to develop materials they could quickly turn to for training and for answers to borrowers’ most frequent and most difficult questions, and to ensure compliance with the regulations and guidelines of the CARES Act – the Coronavirus economic relief bill passed by Congress in March 2020.
To ensure all these materials reached those who needed them, Fannie Mae experts spoke with reporters around the country, and we utilized digital advertising and social media to reach more than 150 million people, including geotargeting renters in Fannie Mae-backed apartment buildings.
By the end of 2020, 3.4 million people had visited KnowYourOptions.com. Our research indicates that after viewing our Here to Help materials, 75% of surveyed homeowners and 59% of surveyed renters took an action such as gathering more information about forbearance, getting protection from eviction, or reaching out to their servicer or landlord.
And as the pandemic continues, we are listening and adapting. We continue gathering feedback from more than 500 of our servicer partners to better understand their challenges and develop solutions to help homeowners stay in their homes.
The impact has been tremendous. Of the homeowners most clearly affected by the pandemic (those who were current on their mortgage payments in February 2020 but at least two payments behind at the end of December), more than 94% took advantage of a forbearance plan, allowing them time to get back on their feet without worrying about losing their homes. And that extra time appears to be helping: Of the 1.3 million Fannie Mae single-family borrowers who entered forbearance in 2020, 62% had exited by the end of the year, of whom 96% were either current on their payments, paid the loan in full, or took advantage of a repayment option, such as COVID-19 payment deferral or a loan modification.
As our CEO Hugh Frater said at the onset, "we will continue to lean into these housing challenges — in both good times and bad." Though many tough days are ahead, we are committed to continuing our work to help homeowners, renters, lenders, borrowers, servicers, and the nation's mortgage and housing markets through the pandemic.
Steve James, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
March 3, 2021
Since March 2020, Fannie Mae has taken action to help homeowners and renters facing financial hardship due to COVID-19:
- Suspended foreclosures and evictions affecting homeowners,
- Extended eviction protections to multifamily renters when the property owner received a forbearance from Fannie Mae,
- Reminded homeowners they are never required to repay missed payments all at once following a COVID-19 forbearance,
- Shared tips to help homeowners avoid foreclosure fraud or scams,
- Launched an online look-up tool for multifamily renters to determine whether they live in a Fannie Mae-financed property,
- Announced a new COVID-19 payment deferral option to help homeowners who are ready to resume their monthly mortgage payments following a COVID-19 forbearance,
- Offered flexibilities for home purchases and refinances,
- Published translated COVID-19 resources in five additional languages,
- Announced additional eviction protections and other measures to support struggling multifamily renters,
- Added a virtual assistant feature on KnowYourOptions.com to help users navigate their COVID-19 relief options, and
- Developed a toolkit with resources for servicers based on their feedback.