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 [...]
On Monday, August 26, NHRC submitted to the Senate a national sign on letter of more than 300 national, state and local organizations calling on the Senate Appropriations Committee to increase funding of the Housing Counseling Assistance program to $60 million for Fiscal Year 2020. The Housing Counseling Assistance Program for Fiscal Year 2018 was at $55 million and for Fiscal Year 2019 was at $50 million. This level of funding is not enough for counseling organizations to meet the unique, diverse and increasing needs of the American housing market and its consumers. Our hope is to move the needle to engage thoughtful conversation on housing counseling ahead of the Senate returning to work next month. Please click HERE to view the letter.
This week, the House Financial Services Committee voted unanimously to pass H.R. 3702, the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2019. The bill will now go to the House floor, and we're expecting a Senate companion of the legislation to be introduced soon. Sponsored by Rep. Al Green (D-TX) and Rep. Ann Wagner (D-MO), this legislation would provide many much needed changes to the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program: The bill would permanently authorize the program; Require states to allocate resources equitably between housing and infrastructure priorities and among homeowners, renters, and people experiencing homelessness; States that receive federal recovery funds will be required to publish its contracts and agreements with third parties to carry out disaster recovery efforts; Require states to create a plan to ensure compliance with federal fair housing obligations; NHRC will continue working with the bill's sponsors as it heads to the House floor to work towards including housing counseling specific language as part of the program's proposed reforms. NHRC commends the Committee for the bill's passage and thanks Reps. Green and Wagner and Financial Services Committee leadership.
The House of Representatives passed the Financial Literacy Act of 2019 (H.R. 2162), which provides a quarter point discount on the Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) for homebuyers who are applying for an FHA mortgage and have completed a housing counseling program by a HUD approved housing counseling agency. The value of this legislation is that it provides an incentive for homebuyers to engage with housing counselors early in the process and get the benefit of independent information, a thorough review of their finances and credit, guidance on the homebuying process, and access to downpayment assistance. We worked with the offices of Rep. Beatty, Rep. Stivers, and Chairwoman Waters to support the bill and to include wording that the housing counseling services needed to be completed before a mortgage application has been signed. When a mortgage application is made, the homebuyer is locking in the loan terms and making major financial decisions, before they have the benefit of the housing counseling. We would also like to have the housing counseling provided before a real estate sales agreement is signed (another major financial decision), but that did not make it into the final bill. A copy of the legislation is here. We are looking to the Senate as the next step in the process.
The sixth housing event sponsored by Deutsche Bank took place in Newark, New Jersey on May 18th. NHRC partnered with local housing counseling agencies to provide attendees with information and assistance on homebuying and foreclosure prevention. For this event, we were excited to coordinate with Hope Now to provide assistance to homeowners in distress. We had our highest attendance yet with at least 255 participants. Here are the big takeaways that helped to make this such a successful event: Location, location, location. We held the event at a well-known, respected church right in the city. Experience over the six events has made it very clear- location impacts attendance. When the event is held at a familiar and trusted neighborhood location, attendance has been markedly higher than when held at a more formal setting like a convention center. Once again, Facebook was the biggest driver of registrations and attendance with more than 90 % of them having no previous knowledge about housing counseling. For those that registered but didn’t attend, participating agencies will be able to follow-up by phone and/or email. Recently, rather than setting one-on-one brief meetings with a housing counselor, we have been using a small group format to highlight the benefits of housing counseling. The groups at this event expressed satisfaction with the format and in fact thought it created a warmer, more inviting and comfortable atmosphere for the attendees while getting more people connected to quality housing counseling programs. Volunteers were essential to the success of the event. We had wonderful volunteers from a local college, a local high school, from Faith Fellowship Church, and from Deutsche Bank. They made sure registration went smoothly, that participants knew where to go to access [...]
On Wednesday, May 8, the Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled A Review of the State of and Barriers to Minority Homeownership. You can watch the archived telecast here: https://financialservices.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=403649#Wbcast03222017. NHRC provided comments to the Financial Services Committee staff to engage them in a conversation about the importance of housing counseling in any effort to increase homeownership rates for minority households. We offered four primary solutions: Recognizing housing counseling as a vehicle for increasing homeownership Incentivizing mortgage applicants to use housing counseling services Providing sustainable funding for housing counseling programs nationwide and Expanding the Section 8 Voucher Program The committee is already moving to include housing counseling as a policy priority this Congress. Representative Beatty (D-OH) and Representative Stivers (R-OH) has introduced H.R. 2162, the Housing Financial Security Act of 2019, which would require HUD to discount FHA single-family mortgage insurance premium payments for first-time homebuyers who complete a financial literacy housing counseling program. We commend Representative Beatty for focusing on homebuyer education and its role in the housing market and community development and economic security of households. We hope to work with Representative Beatty's office to ensure that the legislation is specifically targeting HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. You can view the entire comment letter here: NHRC Letter of Record - 5-8-19 Financial Services -Minority Homeownership