Take Action to Support Housing Counseling

With estimates showing a shadow inventory that numbers in the millions, it’s clear that the foreclosure crisis is not done wreaking havoc on the housing market. It seems that the ideal outcome for families, communities, and investors alike would include avoiding as many foreclosures as possible and keeping homes occupied. A number of strategies have been deployed in support of this goal, some more effective than others. One thread is common among the diverse array of approaches: the importance of HUD-certified housing counselors, who were hit with a major funding cut in the FY 2011 budget. Please take action this week to help get this funding restored for the 2012 budget.

Ed Gorman of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition wrote in an email to supporters:

Right now, Congress is beginning to draft the FY 2012 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill. As part of this process, U.S. Representatives can electronically submit appropriations requests, or “program spending requests,” on behalf of the federal programs they support. Once submitted, the Appropriations Committee will review the request and decide whether to incorporate it into the budget bill. While these requests are not legislative votes or mark-ups, they are the first step in a long process to restore this critical funding.

The deadline to submit appropriations requests is Friday, May 20, 2011. Call your Representative today!

Step 1: Call or email your US representative

You can find your U.S. Representative by entering your zip code here or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. At this point, you do NOT need to call your Senators.

Step 2: Urge your US representative to submit a “program spending request” for the housing counseling program

Ask your U.S. Representative to submit a “program spending request to the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee for the HUD Counseling program that supports the President’s request.” Specifically, ask your U.S. Representative to “provide $88,000,000 for HUD Counseling Assistance for contracts, grants, and other assistance excluding loans, as authorized under section 106 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968.”

Educate your U.S. Representative on the pivotal and proven role housing counselors play in helping families achieve and sustain homeownership. Tell your U.S. Representative that last year, HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agencies:

o Provided 3 million families with individual housing counseling and/or group education;

o Counseled more than 230,000 pre-purchase individuals, resulting in 101,000 who purchased homes or are homeownership-ready;

o Worked to prevent mortgage delinquency for 1.4 million households, with nearly 410,000 avoiding foreclosure (and an additional 529,000 in counseling at the time of reporting);

o Supported 265,000 with post-purchase (non-foreclosure) services, 119,000 of whom refinanced or obtained reverse mortgages; and

o Assisted more than 360,000 renters and homeless individuals to resolve tenant issues or find shelter.

 

Broadly speaking, counselors help homeowners understand their options and make intelligent and responsible decisions. Counselors help homeowners facing foreclosure figure out if there’s a chance to save their home and, if so, navigate the loan modification process, which I don’t need to tell you is byzantine  and requires an enormous amount of persistence. Here in Chicago, they pursue innovative approaches for reaching homeowners and  help homeowners apply for and participate in Cook County’s opt-in mediation program.

Counselors’ work is not limited to foreclosure prevention, either. Many counseling agencies offer pre- and post-purchase counseling for first-time homebuyers—counseling that is required for purchasers of homes rehabilitated by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which plays a pivotal role in returning vacant foreclosed homes back to the market. Seniors interested in obtaining a reverse mortgage are required to receive counseling, which is critically important as more seniors face poverty and fraud proliferates in the reverse mortgage market.

The work housing counselors do is key to a housing market recovery. Please ask your Representative to support recovery and restore HUD Housing Counseling Assistance to the 2012 budget. Let us know in the comments if you are able to reach your representative.