The Senate Committee on Appropriations last week signed off on its proposed Department of Housing and Urban Development budget for 2018, a blueprint that includes $50 million in funding for housing counseling programs.
While the budget doesn’t specifically mention the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program by name, it does include the $50 million for agencies that provide HECM and other homeownership counseling services — a key issue for HUD secretary Ben Carson.
The neurosurgeon-turned-housing chief has repeatedly emphasized the importance of counseling programs amid what he’s described as a general decline in knowledge about homeownership, telling Congress in June that HUD would explore online programs and other initiatives to expand access to counselors.
“That kind of information has been lost, and that makes counseling ever more important at this time, so we have concentrated a great deal of effort on all of those housing counseling centers,” Carson said at the time.
He echoed that sentiment last month in an address to LeadingAge Florida, in which he also praised the HECM program at length.
“Housing counseling helps people buy a home and helps many people stay in their homes,” Carson told the group, which represents non-profit elder care providers in the Sunshine State. “They will be able to age in place. There will be more financial freedom, more responsible practices, and greater security for seniors.”
The $50 million is more than the $43 million that Trump administration requested in its budget blueprint back in May, a figure consistent with the 2017 and 2016 budgets. That document also called for severe cuts to HUD’s rental assistance initiatives and other programs designed to help low-income Americans, while also lifting the federally mandated cap on the number of reverse mortgage loans.
The committee’s counterparts in the House have also advanced a Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill, which includes “drastic cuts,” according to an analysis by law firm Ballard Spahr; the Senate’s version, meanwhile, calls for a small increase in overall funding and $3.5 billion more than the House’s plan.
Whether or not either budget framework will receive a full vote remains unclear, however.
“While many speculate neither the Senate nor the House will move their respective THUD bills to the floor, the Senate’s funding levels represent a step in the right direction for those that rely on many HUD programs,” Ballard Spahr noted.
Written by Alex Spanko