The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded $47 million in housing counseling grants this week. The money is meant to help about one million households “find housing, make more informed housing choices, or keep their current homes.”
“HUD-approved housing counselors are on the front lines, guiding people through their first home purchase and the ups and downs of homeownership,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Their efforts give families a real opportunity to realize their dream of owning a home is obtainable by offering advice on affordable rental housing, home financing, and tools to prevent foreclosure.”
HUD is also awarding $3.5 million to four national organizations that will train and certify additional housing counselors.
National and regional agencies distribute much of HUD’s housing counseling grant funding to community-based organizations that assist low- and moderate-income families to improve their housing conditions. In addition, these larger organizations help improve the quality of housing counseling services and enhance coordination among counseling providers.
Counseling improves housing outcomes for homebuyers, homeowners, and renters. Last year, HUD published research findings summarizing the impact of housing counseling has on families’ housing options and choices. In addition, recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Urban Institute continue to find housing counselors provide substantial benefits for first time homebuyers and families struggling to prevent foreclosure.
Grant recipients address the full range of families’ housing counseling needs. This includes helping homebuyers evaluate their readiness for a home purchase, understand their financing and down payment options, and navigate what can be an extremely confusing and difficult homebuying process. The organizations also help households find affordable rental housing and offer financial literacy training to individuals and families struggling to repair credit problems that restrict their housing options.
In addition to providing counseling to homeowners and renters, these organizations assist homeless persons in finding the transitional housing they need to move toward a permanent place to live. Finally, grantees also assist senior citizens seeking reverse mortgages. These agencies provide counseling for the rapidly growing number of elderly homeowners who seek to convert equity in their homes into income that can be used to pay for home improvements, medical costs, and other living expenses.
Housing counseling agencies also support fair housing by assisting borrowers in reviewing their loan documentation, to avoid potential mortgage scams, unreasonably high interest rates, inflated appraisals, unaffordable repayment terms, and other conditions that can result in a loss of equity, increased debt, default, and even foreclosure. Likewise, foreclosure prevention counseling helps homeowners facing delinquency or default employ strategies, including expense reduction, negotiation with lenders and loan servicers, and loss mitigation, to avoid foreclosure.
There are many ways to find a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. Visit HUD’s website or call (800) 569-4287 for our interactive telephone directory. Get the free housing counseling i-phone app from the app store (not yet available for android). Watch HUD’s video on how housing counseling can help families find (and keep) housing.
You can find a full list of winners here.