Proposal for the New Covid-19 Housing Counseling Funding Program

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 [...]

Housing Counselors – Creating Rental Counseling Capacity to Save the Day

The impact of COVID-19 has reached many across our nation in various ways.  As we are entering the second year of this pandemic, many Americans are faced with the possibility of homelessness. The loss of jobs and reduction of hours available to work makes it impossible to meet the demands of paying rent.  This has a domino effect. Landlords also fall into this downward spiral as rent not only helps them to maintain their properties but also provides the capital needed to pay their mortgage and provide for their own families. There have been $300 billion in emergency funds given to various housing programs to provide “direct rental assistance” to those in need in hopes of preventing eviction.  Within these agencies, Housing Counselors have been identified as a much-needed resource in disseminating these funds.  Typically, housing counselors assist homeowners who faced foreclosure and future homeowners in the home buying process.  Since COVID-19, housing counselors have had to include tenant assistance in their work. Although housing counselors are a needed resource in connecting renters with the help required to prevent eviction, there are not enough funds available to assist groups to hire and train new counselors to help meet the growing need. The question now becomes, “how do we as a nation create the capacity to help more Americans get the help they need.”  This week, The Urban Institute (Urban), a research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities, published a brief entitled "Housing Counseling to Support Renters in Crisis." In this brief, Urban reached out to 18 leaders from several housing counseling agencies and the National Housing Resource Center and asked the following questions: How has housing counseling adapted [...]

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