MassHousing’s HomeOwnership team has responded to the COVID-19 crisis with multiple changes to its products and operations, all made possible by prior planning and an unwavering commitment to the Agency’s values.
Within days of Governor Baker’s stay-at-home order in March, the majority of MassHousing staff transitioned to working from home. The HomeOwnership team did so while facing an increased call volume from mortgage borrowers impacted by the coronavirus and coinciding economic shutdown.
MassHousing’s loan servicing team manages a portfolio of 20,000 loans with an outstanding balance of $4 billion. MassHousing takes a high-touch, personal approach to loan servicing that helps to identify and address any problems a borrower is having as early as possible.
"I am exceedingly proud of and grateful for our Servicing Team," said Kevin Mello, MassHousing’s Director of HomeOwnership Servicing & Operations. "Their commitment to the Agency’s mission and the homeowners we serve has been outstanding! They have exceeded my expectations working under very stressful circumstances while providing empathy and care for all of our borrowers.
"Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, our team has provided over $2 million of mortgage payment relief to more than 1,300 of our mortgagors who are experiencing financial hardships related to the pandemic," Mr. Mello continued. "I am confident that our team will continue to rise to the occasion as we work with our borrowers on long-term payment relief solutions in the months to come."
The HomeOwnership Servicing & Operations team has fielded calls from more than 13,000 borrowers and has made nearly 4,000 outbound calls, working on a case-by-case basis to help mortgage borrowers find the best long-term solution.
Other staff step forward to help
As call volume increased, personnel from other areas of the HomeOwnership business line, as well as the Legal, Corporate, Finance and Rental groups have volunteered to answer phones. Training was conducted online, and volunteers are helping to reduce hold times for callers and the burden for HomeOwnership staff.
"The way MassHousing staff have stepped up shows the Agency’s true colors and our strong values," said Mounzer Aylouche, Vice President of HomeOwnership Programs. “We’re going above and beyond to help our borrowers."
Investment in Technology Pays Off
Several years ago, MassHousing invested in a new telephony system, as well as a new online loan servicing platform. Those investments are proving invaluable today.
The new telephony system allows staff to receive calls from their homes, just as they would from MassHousing’s Boston offices. In addition, when other staff volunteered to assist with calls, the telephone system made it possible to get them up and running without delay.
Similarly, the updated online loan servicing system has aided in the transition to working from home. Borrowers can submit payments online--rather than mailing or hand delivering checks—and can also access account information and send secure messages to MassHousing staff. The HomeOwnership team can log in remotely to complete the tasks they would normally complete at the office.
Product Updates Help Homeowners and Homebuyers
Along with changes to operations, MassHousing has recently updated products for both new and existing mortgage borrowers. For homebuyers, the Agency has relaxed some guidelines to ease the application process and implemented other flexibilities.
For homeowners, MassHousing has waived late fees and withheld reporting delinquencies to credit bureaus. Reduced and zero-payment forbearance plans are available immediately to borrowers who need them.
And MassHousing's MIPlus mortgage insurance benefit, which helps borrowers pay their mortgage if they lose their job, has also been improved. The waiting period has been waived and the eligibility term extended. An online application for MIPlus benefits is now available on masshousing.com to help borrowers access benefits.
The product and operational changes are an extension of MassHousing’s longstanding commitment to sustainable homeownership. "MassHousing is a servicer with a heart," said Mr. Aylouche. "Losing a home is one of the worst things a family can go through. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening."