What can I do to help?
That’s the first thought that many of us have when witnessing tragedies like we've seen unfold during this hurricane season. When confronted by human suffering caused by natural disasters, empathy is simply not enough – we’re called to action. That could mean donating to the American Red Cross or one of the many other relief funds set up by nonprofit organizations and concerned citizens. It could mean putting boots on the ground to help in shelters or with clean-up efforts.
For Freddie Mac, it means getting to work. Because being there in good times and bad is at the heart of our mission.
During natural disasters, homes underlying the mortgages we own are often damaged or destroyed. Even if homeowners don’t live in an area ravaged by a hurricane, they may not be able to pay their mortgages on time – or at all – because they can’t get to work or their workplaces are shut down. Similarly, the apartment buildings we finance can be badly damaged.
More information and resources for those affected by the hurricanes are available here.
It’s heartbreaking to see homes severely damaged, and to see displaced families lose their sense of safety and security when disaster strikes. That’s why hundreds of our employees, from every area of our company, are stepping up and asking, “What can I do to help?”
That help started before Hurricane Harvey made landfall and will continue in the months to come. The heads of our business lines – EVPs David Brickman, Mike Hutchins, and Dave Lowman – quickly came together to mobilize as one team to carefully assess the situation and create a plan of action. For single-family homes, we implemented disaster relief programs, including providing forbearance for up to 12 months, waiving late fees and not reporting late payments to the credit bureaus. For multifamily apartment buildings, we’re providing a similar forbearance option for up to 90 days – part of a comprehensive approach to dealing with impacted borrowers, their properties and associated loans.
Across our company, we’re working with our customers to help those affected. As soon as the hurricanes made landfall, we began urging homeowners to contact their mortgage companies to discuss relief options once their families were safe. Our call center is helping our customers and homeowners navigate the mortgage relief process. Our Multifamily staff is evaluating damaged properties individually – to determine how best to help. And we’re keeping investors in our securities informed about our disaster relief policies and where the exposure is across our securitized products.
With each disaster, we learn new lessons and adjust our policies accordingly. For example, most single-family properties in the impacted disaster areas need to be inspected. Consistent with our lessons learned during Hurricane Sandy, we do not want borrowers impacted by the recent hurricanes to have another thing to worry about, so Freddie Mac is paying for the inspection of their homes.
In the early stages of natural disasters, communication is key. With each recent hurricane, we quickly and effectively communicated our policies, because those affected should primarily be concerned with their own safety and security – not with paying their bills. We’re continuing to leverage all of our corporate and business communication channels to make sure the right information gets to the right people, whether it be through social media, customer communications and meetings, or the valuable information on our company website.
Internally, our employees are contributing through monetary donations and volunteering their time to help make a positive impact in the affected areas. For example, we’re taking part in a benefit later this month in which volunteers will pack approximately 250,000 meals to benefit victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. And during our month-long October SERVE community volunteering initiative, we’re continuing our support for those impacted by these devastating hurricanes through donation drives and employee outreach events.
We’re also taking our efforts straight to those directly affected. Earlier in the month, we co-sponsored an event in Houston with Mr. Cooper (Nationstar) and the Houston Black Real Estate Association for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The event offered residents onsite assistance with their home loans and information on the wider spectrum of assistance options available from FEMA and other participating organizations. We also worked together to give attendees much-needed basic items, such as water, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products to help them through these difficult weeks. Later this month, we’re heading back to Harris County, Texas, for an event sponsored by HOPE NOW that gives families education and awareness on the road to recovery.
Those efforts are all part of what we view as our expanded “Community Mission,” which goes beyond our statutory mission of providing liquidity, stability and affordability to the housing market. It’s a broader focus on ensuring families, and the communities in which they live, get through difficult times. This will be a long process. Recovery and rebuilding is just beginning. Healing the wounds of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria will take time. And Freddie Mac is committed to be there to help in the days and months to come.