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 and 54% of attendees saying they heard about the event on Facebook. Radio and word of mouth both came in second place for attendance with each bringing in 13% of the attendees for a total of 26% of the attendance. One of the participating housing counseling agencies, United Housing, Inc, hosted the Facebook event page allowing all sponsored ads to be branded from United Housing. This lent local credibility to the ads, so people felt comfortable engaging with the event page, asking questions and commenting more than in any other event to date.
Huge thanks to the Memphis groups for all of their efforts. They clearly love the work they do!
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
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:
|Word of Mouth||19||9%|
|HCA or community group||16||8%|
It was an honor and pleasure to watch the St. Louis housing counselors at work. Thanks to them for hard work and professionalism:
Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis
The Housing Partnership
Better Family Life, Inc.
Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, Inc. (CAASTLC)
Youth Education and Health in Soulard
Housing Options Provided for the Elderly: HOPE
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 conference to negotiate the two funding bills. The focus will now be on leadership between the House and Senate. NHRC will continue working with Congress – but especially the Senate – to increase funding for the Housing Counseling program for FY2020.