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 the tools and support they need to navigate our nation’s complex housing system.”
This legislation is supported by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Realtors, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the National Urban League, and the National Housing Resource Center.
NHRC worked closely with both offices on the legislative language of the bill and we are beyond thrilled for its introduction. Thank you to all the advocates and partner organizations who reached out to their Senators asking for housing counseling funding support. We greatly appreciate your efforts!
Reach out to Your Senators: Ask them to join the legislation as a cosponsor.
Tell them what you are hearing from renters and homeowners in your communities and why housing counselors are vital to the overall economic security and post-covid recovery of your delegation’s districts.
Provide them with data on how many people you are helping during this time and show them evidence of how you are directly helping constituents.
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.
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.
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