National Housing Resource Center was instrumental in ensuring that the Biden Administration include funding for housing counseling in the American Rescue Plan Act. We are incredibly happy that $100 million was added because of our advocacy and that the funds were designated to flow through NeighborWorks America as was done with the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program during the financial crisis. While the NFMC program was incredibly helpful and made it possible for housing counseling agencies to build capacity and meet the needs of consumers, there were lessons housing counselors learned which could strengthen new programs. We convened a working group of thirty-eight (38) housing counseling leaders to discuss best practices from the NFMC program and review what needed to be done differently. As a result, we were able to submit a comprehensive list of proposals to NeighborWorks America for the design of the Covid-19 Housing Counseling Funding. The full list of proposals can be found here. Below are a few key highlights. A program can only be properly distributed with adequate administration. This is also true with distributing housing counseling services to any community. The working group believes that there should be adequate support for administrative costs to both subgrantees and intermediaries. NeighborWorks America should prioritize direct funding to agencies for the services they provide over funding for program research and staff training for the first $100 million. We strongly support analytic reviews of the work and staff training but suggest that funding for this comes from later COVID 19 funding. Agencies need funding now to expand capacity and deliver services to consumers in need. The working group recognized that smaller agencies would receive lower funding allocations even though their capacity building may [...]
The impact of COVID-19 has reached many across our nation in various ways. As we are entering the second year of this pandemic, many Americans are faced with the possibility of homelessness. The loss of jobs and reduction of hours available to work makes it impossible to meet the demands of paying rent. This has a domino effect. Landlords also fall into this downward spiral as rent not only helps them to maintain their properties but also provides the capital needed to pay their mortgage and provide for their own families. There have been $300 billion in emergency funds given to various housing programs to provide “direct rental assistance” to those in need in hopes of preventing eviction. Within these agencies, Housing Counselors have been identified as a much-needed resource in disseminating these funds. Typically, housing counselors assist homeowners who faced foreclosure and future homeowners in the home buying process. Since COVID-19, housing counselors have had to include tenant assistance in their work. Although housing counselors are a needed resource in connecting renters with the help required to prevent eviction, there are not enough funds available to assist groups to hire and train new counselors to help meet the growing need. The question now becomes, “how do we as a nation create the capacity to help more Americans get the help they need.” This week, The Urban Institute (Urban), a research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities, published a brief entitled "Housing Counseling to Support Renters in Crisis." In this brief, Urban reached out to 18 leaders from several housing counseling agencies and the National Housing Resource Center and asked the following questions: How has housing counseling adapted [...]
In 2017, Deutsche Bank received orders to enter a significant settlement with the Department of Justice for misleading investors in its sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. Under the consumer relief portion of this settlement, Deutsche Bank was required to sponsor three housing outreach events each year for a three-year term. National Housing Resource Center (NHRC) saw an opportunity to help housing counseling agencies spread the word on the services they provide and submitted a proposal that Deutsche Bank chose to use for eight outreach events. These events were scheduled to take place in markets in Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, Inland Empire (Southern California), Phoenix, St. Louis, Memphis, and Newark. The events targeted Black and Brown homebuyers and homeowners. DESIGN & FLOW The model NHRC developed was designed to have events planned by and for housing counselors. The goal was to ensure that attendees learned the value of meeting with a HUD-approved housing counselor prior to making any home purchasing decision. With that in mind, each event followed a basic outline: Attendees first sat down with a housing counselor for a brief discussion, where they received general information about the services they provide. Attendees can work with a counselor after the event for in-depth housing counseling and an action plan to meet their personal housing goals. At three events, loss mitigation counseling was offered alongside pre-purchase counseling. After meeting with a counselor, attendees could take advantage of workshops about the homebuying process, how to build credit, and local down payment assistance programs available. Next, attendees could get a free credit report with a FICO score from at least one Credit Bureau. Lastly, attendees had the opportunity to visit vendors from banking, real estate, housing development, and social [...]
In every mortgage crisis, communication with mortgage servicers is critical. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and mortgage payment forbearance was enacted by Congress, NHRC moved to improve communication between mortgage servicers, homeowners and housing counselors. We have assembled a directory of mortgage servicer telephone lines and online intake portals for homeowners to reach their servicer directly. The consumer servicer directory is available here and we update it regularly. We also have a second directory for housing counselors with servicer communication channels exclusively for counselors along with escalation lines for counselors to solve problems with servicers. This counselor directory is only available for counselors with HUD approved housing counseling agencies. It is on our website, and is password protected, so that only housing counselors will have access. As a result, servicers will know they are working with a professional housing counselor with training in delinquency counseling. And the communication channels will not be overwhelmed by users. Counselors will have written permission from homeowners to share information and discuss their cases with mortgage servicers. Thirty-four mortgage servicers participate in the directory and early reviews have been very positive. Creating the directory prompted several major servicers to establish counselor hotlines and dedicated staff to facilitate resolutions. The HUD Office of Housing Counseling, HopeNow, and the Housing Policy Council provided valuable help in assembling these lists. We will continue to update these directories. If you have any additions or corrections, please send them to Ellie Pepper at email@example.com. And for counselors, please share your experiences with the directory, so that we know what is working and what needs improvement.
On Tuesday, September 1, the Centers for Disease Control an unprecedented action and issued a national moratorium on most evictions for nonpayment of rent. The moratorium takes effect September 4th, 2020. The CDC declared the moratorium to ensure that renters can practice social distancing and remain in compliance with stay at home orders in their states during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Prior to this action, many state level moratoriums were about to expire. Please note, the moratorium does not cancel or cover back rent, utilities or fees. It also does not provide emergency assistance for housing. The moratorium only postpones evictions. A few details about the action; to be covered under the moratorium: Renters must sign and provide to their landlord a declaration stating they have used their best efforts to obtain rental assistance. Tenants cannot earn no more $99,000 in 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing jointly), was not required to report income in 2019 to the IRS or have received an Economic Impact Payment under the CARES Act. Tenants must be unable to pay full rent or make a full rent payment due to loss of income, work hours or medical costs, and must be trying to make partial rent payments. Tenants would be at risk of an eviction would face homelessness or forced to join other households. The moratorium goes through December 31, 2020. You may find the eviction moratorium form to submit to landlords here: https://www.hsgcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/declaration-form.pdf This action may help some tenants; however, it does not go far enough. Congress must act and pass legislation that provides robust stimulus funding for Covid-19 relief for homeowners, tenants, communities and those at risk or experiencing homelessness. This summer, NHRC worked closely with [...]
Everything is changing so quickly these days, especially for homeowners and tenants. Homeowners are confused about what is available to help them with their mortgage, renters don’t know if they can be evicted, and advocates want to know how current policies are impacting the most vulnerable consumers. Unfortunately, up to the minute data just isn’t available as quickly as needed to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. At NHRC, we know HUD approved housing counselors are seeing this play out on a day to day basis with consumers they are trying to help. In order to inform advocates and policy makers, we created a short survey asking housing counselors a few questions about what they are seeing and hearing from their clients. With responses from housing counselors from across the country, a few key pieces of data have become clear: 90% of counselors reported hearing from delinquent borrowers who have not chosen to enter forbearance. The top three reasons counselors hear: Fear of lump sum repayment Did not know they could get a forbearance Not able to get through to their servicer 70% report concerns about effective communication between homeowners and servicers. This lack of effective communication made housing counselors hesitant to support automatic forbearance for those that are delinquent. (As a policy matter, NHRC supports automatic forbearance for borrowers who are 60 day delinquent and not communicating with their servicer; because the alternative is initiating foreclosure with the increased costs and possibility of losing their home during the COVID-19 crisis.) 75% report hearing from tenants that need assistance with rent and/or have questions about their rights. The information gathered in this survey has been useful in alerting advocates, policy makers, [...]
HUD Secretary Ben Carson Extends Critical Deadline for Housing Counseling Organizations at Risk of Losing Funding
On July 31, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published its Interim Final Rule on its website to announce a delay in the deadline for housing counselors to become HUD certified. The pause is meant to ensure that vital housing counseling services remain available to the nation’s homebuyers and renters, particularly those who need housing and mortgage assistance to recover financially from the effects of the COVID-19 emergency. The Interim Final Rule will be subsequently published for comment in the Federal Register. This effort was led by many advocates and stakeholders, including Senator Tina Smith. U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) says that Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson heeded her call to extend the August 1, 2020 deadline for housing counselor certification for HUD’s Housing Counseling Assistance Program by at least one year. Smith led a group of Senators in pressing Secretary Carson for this extension so that counseling agencies can continue to get members of their organization certified. Many agencies would have been unable to complete this process before August 1 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and therefore risked losing HUD funding. “I fought for this extension to prevent a disruption in the delivery of housing counseling services in communities across the country,” said Sen. Smith. “These services are important, and will be in greater demand as temporary protections for homeowners and renters expire. It is vital that community organizations receive the resources necessary to help households maintain stable housing.” -- Senator Tina Smith The Senators who signed the letter are: Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) Senator Amy [...]
On July 16, House Financial Services Committee held a virtual hearing, entitled Protecting Homeowners During the Pandemic: Oversight of Mortgage Servicers' Implementation of the CARES Act within the Subcommitee on Oversight and Investigations. One of the witnesses, Marcia Griffin, is the Founder and President of HomeFree-USA, and one of NHRC's national partners in housing counseling advocacy. She made the case before the subcommittee on the issues that housing counselors are seeing in CARES Act-related mortgage servicing during these early stages of economic impacts of the Covid-19 Pandmeic. Below is an excerpt from her testimony. Today, about 4.2M homeowners, or roughly 9 percent of all homeowners are in some form of mortgage forbearance or CARES Act payment forbearance. While new forbearances are leveling off, we anticipate a modest increase once unemployment benefits run out which would cause the percentage to tick closer to 11 percent. Assuming one out of 10 homeowners need more advice and help in setting up repayment terms, the housing counseling industry needs at least $220M for one year and $700 million for a full program to address the needs of housing consumers in this crisis. NHRC is grateful that partners like HomeFree-USA are making the case for funding. Congress is still in talks around a Phase 4 Stimulus Package to address Covid-19 and we are advocating for any package to include funding for housing counseling assistance. You may read Marcia's testimony HERE. We are still advocating for S. 4098, the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act, sponsored by Senators Brown(D-OH) and Menendez(D-NJ). This legislation would provide for $700 million for Housing Counseling Assistance during the pandemic. The Heroes Act, passed by the House, would provide for $100 million for Housing Counseling Assistance. NHRC [...]
On June 29, Senator Menendez (D-NJ) and Banking Committee Ranking Member Brown (D-OH) introduced the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act, S. 4098. The Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act would provide $700 million for NeighborWorks to support housing counseling services to help homeowners, renters, people experiencing homelessness, and people at risk of homelessness navigate their housing options and rights during the COVID-19 crisis, including protections and resources provided through COVID-19 relief legislation. The legislation also requires that no less than 40 percent of the $700 million fund is targeted to counseling organizations that serve minority and low-income homeowners and renters. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.),Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D.N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Mark Warner (D-Vir.). “Millions of families across our country – already suffering through job and income loss -- are now living in fear that in a matter of weeks or months, they will be facing down foreclosure, eviction and even homelessness,” said Sen. Menendez. “Knowledge is power. Along with fighting for more federal assistance and protections – we’ve got to expand access to housing counseling so that these individuals and families can get help in finding affordable ways to stay in their homes.” “Losing a home to foreclosure or eviction turns a family’s life upside down,” said Sen. Brown. “During a pandemic, it also puts their health at risk. Providing vital funding to housing counselors will ensure that homeowners and renters – especially Black and brown homeowners and renters who have been hardest hit by this pandemic – have [...]
NHRC and Coalition of HUD Intermediaries send Congress joint request for $150 million in wake of COVID-19 epidemic
The Coalition of HUD Intermediaries and NHRC have made a joint request to Congress for $150 million in immediate emergency funding for HUD approved housing counseling agencies in the wake of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. The economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic will significantly impact American families as they experience unexpected health costs, reduced wages and enormous financial stress. Some of the issues facing Americans in the wake of the crisis include: Families facing eviction or foreclosure will still need assistance, or greater assistance, in figuring out how to secure stabling housing; Lenders are creating new programs or expanding current programs, to assist consumers. It is critical that households have support in navigating this new lending marketplace; Prospective homeowners will need more help figuring out the real estate and housing market, especially those financially impacted during the pandemic. Housing counselors are positioned to play an important role in helping families address these challenges and restore their housing stability as well as move towards financial wellness. Given the nature of the economy right now, with many agencies working remotely, the request to Congress specifically addresses the unique challenges that housing counselors are facing and what the funding would need to address: Funds can be spent on delivering the full set of HUD housing counseling services, not just some. Funds can be spent on equipment and technology to deliver services virtually as direct costs. Funds can be spent on training. Legislation should not limit the type of trainings to maintain flexibility for services. You may view the joint letter HERE.
Today, NHRC published its national sign-on letter, asking Congress to fund the Housing Counseling Assistance program at $65 million for FY2021 More than 350 organizations signed on! The Housing Counseling Assistance Program for Fiscal Year 2020 was funded at $53 million and while groups around the country were grateful and appreciative of the modest increase, NHRC and its national, state and local partners want Congress to understand that this level of funding is not enough for agencies and counseling organizations to meet the unique, diverse and increasing needs of the American housing market and its consumers. The national sign on letter was sent to every member of Congress. Thank you everyone who joined the letter. We appreciate your help! In the coming weeks, NHRC will be conversing with Appropriators on how to move forward to reach $65 million figure. Please click here to view the letter.
Our eighth and final event sponsored by Deutsche Bank took place in Memphis, Tennessee. Despite heavy rain and flash flood warnings, 250 people came out to learn about buying and keeping their home. Most notably, the attendees slogged through the rain to meet with a housing counselor! This event was planned by local community service agencies as well as housing counseling agencies. Collaborating in this way made for a very effective event that they now hope to duplicate on an annual basis. First Baptist Church-Broad in Memphis was the perfect location with an ideal set-up for the event. For the first time we had vendors, credit counselors pulling credit reports, and housing counselors meeting with prospective buyers all in the same room. Participants met first with housing counselors upon entering so they were engaged with a housing program to meet their housing goals – and then free to attend workshops, meet lenders, visit with credit counselors, and check out downpayment assistance opportunities. We also had a clean and healthy home workshop on the ways to make your home more environmentally and health conscious. We can’t say enough about the benefit of having a strong base of volunteers. In Memphis, as with all the previous events, the volunteers made it all work and were a key ingredient to a successful event. We were lucky to have several wonderful volunteers from First Baptist Church as well as from the participating organizations. They helped explain the agenda to each and every attendee, made sure everyone knew about the available workshops, directed people to the various activities, and verified that everyone got through the registration area. Once again, Facebook was the biggest driver with a whopping 87% of registrants [...]
Last week, NHRC submitted comments to the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity to express its opposition to the proposed rule to amend HUD's interpretation of the Fair Housing Act. The summary of that proposed rule is below: This rule proposes to amend HUD's interpretation of the Fair Housing Act's disparate impact standard to better reflect the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., and to provide clarification regarding the application of the standard to State laws governing the business of insurance. This rule follows a June 20, 2018, advance notice of proposed rulemaking, in which HUD solicited comments on the disparate impact standard set forth in HUD's 2013 final rule, including the disparate impact rule's burden-shifting approach, definitions, and causation standard, and whether it required amendment to align with the decision of the Supreme Court in Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. The current rule, implicitly endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court, standardized the burden shifting approach to disparate impact utilized by the courts for more than 45 years. NHRC joined hundreds of groups across the country by submitting a comment letter to the agency. In our letter, we spoke to the negative consequences of implementing the proposed rule. It would have detrimental effects to low- and moderate-, and historically disadvantaged communities still suffering from various examples of housing and banking discrimination. It will undermine the efforts of countless advocates, nonprofit organizations and housing counseling agencies working around the country to ensure the financial security of millions of households. Finally, it will reverse many of the advancements in racial and economic equality set into motion as a result of the passage of the Fair Housing Act by complicating the process You [...]
St. Louis housing counseling agencies joined National Housing Resource Center in a high impact Housing Fair, This is the seventh housing event sponsored by Deutsche Bank to reach underserved communities with targeted marketing and housing counseling services on homebuying and foreclosure prevention. Each event has the joint goals of promoting the excellent work of local agencies and strengthening our outreach capacity. We had 216 people attend. The housing counseling agencies in St. Louis reported that this was the best turnout they have had. We learned a few lessons for our best practices list. For the first time, we were able to include the dollar amount of available down payment assistance in our marketing. We focused all of our radio dollars on longer 60 second spots during the final week leading up to the event. While we did see a higher percentage of attendees who heard about the event on the radio, it still could not compete with the response from social media. So it bears repeating - Facebook ads were the biggest driver of registrations and attendance (50%). More importantly, Facebook is connecting with people who had not known about housing counseling as well as those who never thought they could consider becoming a homeowner. Finally, location matters and the Friendly Temple church was a trusted institution in the community with the target population. Here is the breakdown of sources: Facebook- 108 50% Radio- 39 18% Word of Mouth 19 9% HCA or community group 16 8% Church- 11 5% Flyer- 5 2% Other 3 1% Newspaper- 2 1% No answer- 13 6% 216 100% It was an honor and pleasure to watch the St. Louis housing counselors at work. Thanks to them for [...]
The Senate numbers for the FY2020 THUD bill are in and sadly, the Housing Counseling Assistance (HCA) program was dealt a blow. The FY2020 Senate THUD funding bill -- which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today -- funds the Housing Counseling Assistance program at $45 million. This is $5 million dollars less than FY2019 levels and $15 million less than the House THUD funding bill passed earlier this summer, which funds HCA at $60 million for FY2020. The full legislative text from the Senate THUD funding bill is below: HOUSING COUNSELING ASSISTANCE For contracts, grants, and other assistance excluding loans, as authorized under section 106 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, as amended, $45 million, to remain available until September 30, 2021, including up to $4,500,000 for administrative contract services and not less than $3,000,000 for the certification of housing counselors as required under 12 U.S.C. 1701x: Provided, That grants made available from amounts provided under this heading shall be awarded with 180 days of enactment of this Act: Provided further, That funds shall be used for providing counseling and advice to tenants and homeowners, both current and prospective, with respect to property maintenance, financial management and literacy, and such other matters as may be appropriate to assist them in improving their housing conditions, meeting their financial needs, and fulfilling the responsibilities of tenancy or homeownership; for program administration; and for housing counseling training. Provided further, That for purposes of providing such grants from amounts provided under this heading, the Secretary may enter into multi-year agreements, as appropriate, subject to the availability of annual appropriations. While this is discouraging news, there's still an opportunity for advocates. The House and Senate will eventually enter [...]