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New Federal Program Provides Nearly 73 Million Dollars in Counseling Grants to Help Families Find and Keep Housing

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RISMEDIA, December 29, 2010—In an effort to help families find decent housing and to prevent future foreclosures, the Obama Administration announced nearly $73 million in housing counseling grants to more than 500 national, regional and local organizations. As a result of the funding, hundreds of thousands of households will have a greater opportunity to find housing or keep the homes they have because of the housing counseling and counseling training grants awarded by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The grants represent a $13 million, or 22% increase over last year’s funding level. In announcing the grant awards, Donovan said HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are a critical part of the nation’s housing recovery.

“These organizations are on the front lines of helping families who are desperate to remain in their homes,” said Donovan. “Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we support these agencies that are working with struggling families on a one-to-one basis to manage their money, navigate the homebuying process, and secure their financial futures.”

Housing counseling grants will assist families in becoming first-time homeowners and remaining homeowners after their purchase. HUD-approved counseling agencies not only provide homeownership counseling, but also offer financial literacy training to renters and homeless individuals and families.

Donovan added, “This critical funding will help counseling organizations continue to assist families in making more informed choices before they purchase a home and counsel families facing foreclosure.”

Nearly $68 million will support the direct provision of housing counseling services by 24 national and regional organizations, five multi-state organizations, and 484 state and local housing counseling agencies. In addition, HUD is awarding more than $5 million to three national organizations to train approximately 4,500 counselors who will receive the instruction and certification necessary to effectively assist families with their housing needs.

National and regional agencies distribute much of HUD’s housing counseling grant funding to community-based grassroots organizations that provide advice 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 other counseling providers.

Counseling agencies will use $9.5 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.

The organizations that provide housing counseling services help people become or remain homeowners or find rental housing, and assist homeless persons in finding the transitional housing they need to move toward a permanent place to live. Grant recipients also help home buyers 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, grantees 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 performance reviews to maintain their HUD-approved status.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

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