Eighty housing leaders and supporters crowded into the Realtors top-floor meeting room with a spectacular view of the Capitol building on July 26th and 27th for our national Leaders in Housing Counseling Meeting.

Some of the highlights you should know about:

We had an encouraging discussion with Adolfo Marzol, Special Assistant to the Secretary at HUD. We proposed discussions with HUD over the next year on how to increase homeownership opportunities and strengthen the FHA mortgage insurance fund by:

  • Increasing public awareness of housing counseling with the help of HUD;
  • Providing incentives to borrowers such as discounting the mortgage insurance premiums for people who complete counseling;
  • Exploring greater availability of downpayment assistance;
  • Referring declined FHA borrowers to counseling agencies;
  • Referring delinquent borrowers to counseling;
  • Exploring payments to counseling agencies for pre-purchase and delinquency counseling work, which improves the performance of the fund.

Rep. Charlie Dent and Sen. Bob Menendez received this year’s Champions of Housing Counseling awards for their work with us. Charlie Dent, a senior Appropriations member, promised to push for restoring HUD Housing Counseling back to $55 million in the final budget.

On the need to improve marketing and messaging of housing counseling, we had a deep discussion with the Creative Marketing Resources (CMR) people about the high value of housing counseling but low public recognition. They conducted mystery shopping on agencies, which found high levels of expertise and commitment, but entry into programs not always as easy as it should be. More CMR insights: financial incentives to join counseling were highly valued by consumers, call it “anything but counseling,” HUD has value as a good housekeeping seal of approval, and counseling agencies need to do more to appeal to Millennials.

After much discussion, the group decided to make a recommendation to the Office of Housing Counseling that we change the name from housing counselor to “HUD-certified housing advisor.”

We will convene a discussion on the proposed Client Management Systems to encourage greater interconnectivity and communication.

We also convened a stakeholders meeting with the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Realtors, which produced a commitment to do a new round of lender/real estate agent/counselor meetings this year and a white paper on the lessons learned on the experiences of the Cleveland, San Antonio, Richmond, CA, and Brockton, MA meetings.

And NHRC members received beautiful, hand-made batik wall-hangings made by artisans in the Gambia in Africa.