Kotzebue homeowners struggling to pay for mortgage and renovations because of the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for assistance starting Tuesday.
The Native Village of Kotzebue offers residents help through the Homeowners Assistance Fund to cover future and past mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, as well as utility fees such as electric, water, internet and heating assistance, said Homeowners Assistance Fund Specialist Caitlin Conwell.
The application period opens on Tuesday, Sept. 5 and will continue until the funding cap is reached, Conwell said.
To qualify for this program, a person needs to meet income guidelines, be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and own a home in Kotzebue that is their primary residence. They also need to have an email address or ask a family member to assist them with an application.
The Native Village of Kotzebue has tribal members throughout Alaska and the country. All tribally enrolled members are eligible for assistance, but only tribal members in Kotzebue can receive home renovations, Conwell said.
The Homeowners Assistance Fund is a nationwide resource that was authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal COVID-relief program. Through 2022, it assisted over 230,000 homeowners, helping to prevent such events as mortgage delinquencies and displacement., according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In other places in Northwest Alaska, the Northwest Inupiat Housing Authority provided help through the program to help the homeowners in Selawik, Noorvik, Ambler, Kobuk, Deering and Shungnak.
“The whole point behind the HAF program is to combat COVID-19 and reduce the number of people living in huge housing shortage,” said Paulette Schuerch, tribal broadband connectivity program specialist and grant writer at the village office. “The Indian Housing Plan shows a shortage of about 297 homes here in our community.”
She said the fund “gives us the opportunity to do renovations and ensure that people are living in better conditions than they currently are.”
Correction: The story previously said that only tribal members living in Kozebue are eligible for assistance. In fact, all tribal members can apply for assistance, but only those living in Kotzebue can receive home renovation.