Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New HUD Grants for Housing Counseling

The housing crisis isn’t over, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hopes that the grants it provides will help American homeowners to avoid foreclosure.
Just today, HUD released the news that it would be providing more than $40 million in housing counseling grants across the country.  In all, the funds will be split between 334 national, regional, and local organizations, according to the HUD press release.  The agency reports that, as a direct result of the grants “and the additional funding they [will] help leverage, more than 1.6 million households will have a greater opportunity to find housing, make more informed housing choices, or keep their current homes.”
What Will the Grant Funds Support?
According to the department’s press release, the funds will directly support housing counseling programs that are currently run by 27 national and regional organizations, 8 multi-state organizations, 277 local housing counseling agencies, and 22 State Housing Finance Agencies (SHFAs).  In addition to funding agencies that directly provide housing counseling, HUD has also allocated $2 million for two different national organizations that train housing counselors.  These organizations provide the “instruction and certification necessary” for housing counselors to “assist families with their housing needs.”
The HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan made clear that the grant funds will have a positive impact on families throughout the country.  He explained that the “HUD-approved counseling agencies this funding supports are crucial in helping families manager their money, navigate the homebuying process, and secure their financial futures.”
He went on to clarify that current statistics prove that “housing counseling works.”  After families have undergone housing counseling, many have been able to find homes or keep their current homes, both facts that help to “promote neighborhood stability in the long term.”  In fact, a 2012 HUD report showed that in both families who purchase their first homes and families who struggle to avoid foreclosure, housing counseling significantly improved their chances of remaining in their homes.
In addition to housing counseling agencies, the recent grants also shed light on HUD’s new Office of Housing Counseling.  This new office “streamlined the application process for these grants” and made certain procedural improvements, both of which allowed more agencies to apply for and to be awarded grant money.  Specifically, the new office substantially reduced the administrative burdens that grant applicants typically encounter.
What Do Housing Counseling Agencies Do?
According to HUD, housing counseling agencies provide a number of services, including:
·      Helping homebuyers and homeowners to “realistically evaluate their readiness for a home purchase,” thus helping these families to avoid situations in which they can’t pay their mortgages and could face foreclosure.
·      Helping homebuyers and homeowners to better understand financing issues and down-payment options.  For many families, understanding the finances of homeownership can be difficult, and housing counseling agencies can help.
·      Helping families to find affordable rental housing.
·      Providing “financial literacy training” to families and individuals who have credit problems that are preventing them from buying a home.
·      Assisting homeless persons to find transitional housing so that they can eventually find a permanent home.
While housing counseling agencies can provide important information to homeowners about avoiding foreclosure, you should also have a dedicated foreclosure defense lawyer on you’re side if you’re at risk of losing your home.  Contact us today to discuss your options.
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