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RISMEDIA, July 12, 2007—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is encouraging all residents interested in owning a home, refinancing their mortgage or taking steps to avoid foreclosure to contact a local housing counseling agency for fair and reliable advice. With over 2,300 HUD-approved counseling centers throughout the country, these community-based facilities can educate home buyers on how to purchase a home, avoid predatory lenders and assist current homeowners facing possible foreclosure.

“In this ever-changing market, it is critical that families have a safe place to turn to ask questions and get help,” HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson said. “We want to help people obtain the educational tools they need to steer clear of mortgage scams and find homes they can afford. Housing counseling agencies are a one-stop-shop to provide families with reliable advice that helps them maneuver through the home buying process, avoid hazardous situations, and ensure the American Dream of homeownership remains a safe, long-term investment.”

A recent HUD-sponsored homeownership summit found that half of all homeowners facing foreclosure are afraid to contact their lender or bank for assistance. However, most were willing to speak with a local non-profit counseling agency, but did not know how to contact them.

The key to avoiding scams or being steered into accepting a risky loan is the ability to diligently read and comprehend the fine print of a mortgage while also not being worried about asking for help when needed. Housing counseling agencies can help homeowners act prudently when making informed financial decisions, while also avoiding high-risk, high-cost loans that place them at greater risk of foreclosure.

Recognizing the importance of financial education, the Bush administration has increased the housing counseling budget from $13 million to $41 million since 2001 – over a 200% increase. President Bush has proposed another increase – to $50 million – in Fiscal Year 2008.

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