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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced it is making $40 million in grants available to support hundreds of housing counseling organizations across the country that assist families, including those buying their first home, struggling to locate affordable rental housing or seeking to avoid foreclosure.  It is estimated HUD’s housing counseling grants, and the additional funding they leverage, will reach more than 1.5 million households through a network of approximately 300 national, regional and local organizations.

“We know that housing counseling can make all the difference in purchasing and, most importantly, keeping a home,” says HUD Secretary Julián Castro.  “The grants we offer will help ensure families and individuals make more informed housing decisions, whether it means buying their first home, avoiding foreclosure, or finding affordable rental housing.”

HUD is offering $40 million to directly support the housing counseling services provided by national and regional organizations, multi-state organizations, State Housing Finance Agencies (SHFAs) and more than 200 local housing counseling agencies that assist low- and moderate-income families improve their housing conditions. Grant winners use the money to help homebuyers evaluate if they are ready to buy a house, understand their financing and down payment options, and navigate what can be an extremely confusing and difficult process.  Grantees also help families find affordable rental housing and offer financial literacy training to help struggling families repair credit problems.

The comprehensive housing counseling housing grants funding announced will be competed through the Department’s two-year (FY2016 – FY2017) Comprehensive Housing Counseling Grant Program Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) published February 18, 2016.  The application deadline is April 4, 2016.

In addition, HUD is also making $2 million available in FY2016-2017 Housing Counseling Training Grant Program funds to support basic and specialized housing counseling training for housing counseling agencies. The application deadline is April 4, 2016.

The national and regional agencies distribute much of the housing counseling grant funding to the community-based organizations. The larger organizations also help guide and improve the quality of housing counseling services and enhance coordination among counseling providers.

In addition to providing counseling to homeowners and renters, the organizations assist homeless persons in finding the transitional housing they need to move toward a permanent place to live. Grantees also assist senior citizens seeking reverse mortgages or (HECM,) providing counseling for the rapidly growing number of elderly homeowners who want to convert equity in their homes into income that can be used to pay for home improvements, medical costs, and other living expenses.

Housing counseling agencies also support fair housing by assisting borrowers in reviewing their loan documentation to 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.

Recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Urban Institute continues to find substantial benefits to housing counseling for families who purchase their first homes and those struggling to prevent foreclosure.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

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