Despite its well-documented value for housing consumers, funding for housing counseling has been a roller coaster. In FY 2010, Congress appropriated $87.5 million in support of HUD Housing Counseling programs. In FY 2011, $0 were appropriated followed by $45 million in FY 2012. Since 2012, appropriations for the program have hovered between $45 and $55 million dollars. In FY 2016, the final round of National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) funds were granted with $40 million and now there is no more direct funding for the important foreclosure mitigation counseling work.
Why were housing counseling funds zeroed out in 2011? Lawmakers were unfamiliar with the HUD Housing Counseling program, and did not understand the importance of the funding. Since then, despite all the research showing that prepurchase counseling reduces mortgage delinquencies substantially and that foreclosure mitigation counseling improves loan workouts and reduces redefaults, the funding for this important work remains low.
So what can you do to reverse this trend? You can educate your local, state, and federal lawmakers no matter their party affiliation. You can ensure that they are aware of the work you do on behalf of their constituents, every day in their district. When someone new is elected to an office representing your district, you can reach out immediately to let them know about your services. Make certain they know you can help solve problems for their constituents. Building advocacy with, and education of, your representatives is equally as important as providing day to day services to your clients. When your representatives know your work and how it benefits their constituents, they are better equipped, not to mention more likely, to fight for the funding needed to continue your work.
But finding the time to do this important work in your crowded schedule is tough. Here are a few suggestions for ways to integrate advocacy with your representatives into the work you are already doing:
- Send a copy of your Annual Report to representatives at all levels of government, regardless of party affiliation. Add a personal note that includes a success story from the past year.
- As part of a fundraising event, honor a representative that has been a champion for your work or for related work.
- Set up face to face meetings in the district. Take pictures, acknowledge them on your agency social media platforms.
- When a client tells you how much your assistance has helped, ask them to pen a letter that you can send to representatives. Ask if they’ll sign it but even if they won’t, send it with just a first name or initials.
Do you have some innovative ideas for advocacy with elected officials? We’d love to hear about it! You can email Melody Imoh at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ellie Pepper at email@example.com and we will share your ideas with other housing counseling agencies!