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Commentary: Nonprofits Warn of Increased Foreclosures with the Elimination of the Housing Counseling Assistance Program

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RISMEDIA, April 20, 2011—Enduring the devastating housing crisis is a challenge that is only exacerbated by Congress’s decision to eliminate all funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Counseling Assistance Program. Representatives from NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the NAACP, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) and the National Urban League (NUL) recently held a telephonic press conference in which they criticized the budget cuts as a major setback that would increase the vulnerability of communities of color and severely harm the groups across the country that offer them housing counseling.

“Housing counseling provides linguistically and culturally appropriate services for communities of color to make informed decisions about their housing options,” said Lisa Hasegawa, Executive Director at National CAPACD. “The cuts will disrupt the momentum we’ve made in addressing this crisis and critically harm the delivery system of trusted nonprofit organizations and trained housing counselors that has taken years to build in our communities.”

Despite having a history of bipartisan support, the program lost its entire $88 million budget, which it uses to support nonprofits that offer families homeownership, rental, reverse mortgage and foreclosure prevention counseling. Eliminating this program will cause many nonprofits to cut these free counseling services and lay off staff. For example, at NCLR, the elimination of funding for our housing counseling network—which provided home buyer, rental and foreclosure prevention counseling to more than 62,000 families last year—will cause our network to shrink from 55 housing counseling organizations to just 20.

“This housing crisis has resulted in the loss of a decade of wealth in the Latino community,” said Eric Rodriguez, NCLR Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation. “It is senseless to target an effective program that helps families navigate the confusing foreclosure prevention process and helps first-time home buyers prepare for homeownership.”

Participants were particularly shocked that Congress would cut such a results-driven program, especially with data showing that access to counseling reduces default rates. Hilary O. Shelton, Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy at NAACP, added that losing these services would be devastating for Blacks and Latinos, who are disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis. Between 2007 and 2009, approximately 8% of Latinos and Blacks lost their homes, almost double the rate of loss for Whites, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

“Because African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities have been targeted by predatory lenders for decades, the foreclosure rates in our neighborhoods are high, and consequently, the vital need for housing counselors is crucial,” said Shelton. “Now is not the time to eliminate one of the most vital resources for prospective and existing homeowners.”

Without the federal program, nonprofits can expect the budget crunch to hit on October 1, 2011, when all 2010 funding will be spent. The speakers agreed that they do not expect the housing crisis to be anywhere close to over at that point.

“At a time when the country is struggling mightily under the weight of mass foreclosures and broad economic uncertainty, the decision to dismantle the nation’s nonprofit housing counseling infrastructure is simply bad public policy,” said Cy Richardson, Vice President of Housing and Community Development at NUL.

For more information, visit www.nclr.org.

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