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 be proportionately larger. One possibility would be a participation grant for capacity building for each organization, rather than as a percentage of projected volume.
- Outreach is a necessary component for any business or nonprofit organization. For housing counseling agencies to simply exist is not enough to provide the services they have been created to deliver. There is a need for a national public awareness campaign to inform renters and homeowners about the opportunities available with housing counseling agencies. Housing counseling funding should be used to fund direct services and capacity building, and the marketing should be funded through other means.
To read the report, click here.