As part of its continuing effort to help families find decent housing and to prevent future foreclosures, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced more than $42 million in housing counseling grants to 468 national, regional and local organizations. As a result of this funding, hundreds of thousands of households will have a greater opportunity to find housing or keep their current homes.
“The HUD-approved counseling agencies this funding supports are crucial in helping struggling families on a one-to-one basis to manage their money, navigate the homebuying process, and secure their financial futures,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “We fought hard to persuade Congress to restore funding for housing counseling in HUD’s budget and now we’re working to make these important resources available as quickly as possible.”
In Arkansas three agencies received funding: Southern Bancorp Community Partners in Helena; the Jonesboro Urban Renewal Authority Housing and Community Development Organization; and the Universal Housing Development Corporation in Russellville.
Housing counseling grants will assist families in becoming homeowners, many for the first time, and remaining homeowners after their purchase. They also provide assistance to renters and the homeless, and offer financial literacy training to individuals and families.
“These funds are complemented by the roughly $2.5 billion provided to the states as part of the $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement. Most states can use those funds for foreclosure prevention activities such as housing counseling and legal aid services,” added Secretary Donovan.
More than $36 million in grant funds will directly support the housing counseling services provided by 27 national and regional organizations, 6 multi-state organizations, 16 State Housing Finance Agencies (SHFAs) and 419 local housing counseling agencies. In addition, HUD is awarding $2 million to three national organizations to train counselors who will receive the instruction and certification necessary to effectively assist families with their housing needs.
Counseling agencies will also receive $4 million to help assist senior citizens seeking reverse mortgages or Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM). These agencies will 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.
National and regional agencies distribute much of HUD’s housing counseling grant funding to community-based grassroots organizations that provide information and guidance to low- and moderate-income families seeking to improve their housing conditions. In addition, these larger organizations help improve the quality of housing counseling services and enhance coordination among counseling providers.
Grant recipients help homebuyers and homeowners realistically evaluate their readiness for a home purchase, understand their financing and downpayment options, and navigate what can be an extremely confusing and difficult process. In addition to providing counseling to homebuyers and renters, these organizations assist homeless persons in finding the transitional housing they need to move toward a permanent place to live.
Grantees also help combat predatory lending by helping unwary borrowers review their loan documentation, and 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. With foreclosures at critical levels nationwide, these services are more important than ever.
HUD awards annual grants under the housing counseling program through a competitive process. Organizations that apply for grants must be HUD-approved and are subject to monitoring and oversight to maintain their HUD-approved status.