The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week announced the organizations that will receive a total of $42.8 million in counseling grants, including reverse mortgage counseling.
“HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are on the front lines of helping individuals and families to find affordable rental housing or make more informed homeownership choices,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a press release announcing the grants. “The funding we announce today will help families to realize their dreams—whether it’s owning a home, avoiding foreclosure, or finding an affordable place to rent.”
The counseling funding also goes to organizations that, “help seniors determine whether a reverse mortgage makes sense for them,” the release said.
Response from the reverse mortgage counseling community has been positive.
“Housing counseling agencies have been waiting months for HUD to announce the FY19 awards. The contract year started on October 1, 2018 and for most agencies like ours, the services have already been provided,” said Jennifer Cosentini, housing director at Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp in Agawam, Mass. “These funds are crucial in helping agencies support their housing programs.”
Others expressed satisfaction in continuing to be able to fulfill their mission.
“Money Management International is extremely pleased that HUD has awarded nearly $43 million in housing grants to HUD-approved agencies, which MMI has been since 2006,” said Jackie Boies, senior director of housing and bankruptcy services at MMI in Sugar Land, Tex.
“This grant funding helps MMI fulfill our goal of empowering lives of financial wellness and helping Americans achieve safe and affordable housing. With these funds, we will provide housing counseling to more than 20,000 consumers, educating and assisting them in making informed decisions about their housing needs.”
Several critical counseling services will be able to continue due to these awards, including reverse mortgage counseling, Boies said, which also has specific benefits.
“Through the counseling provided by MMI, homeowners will avoid foreclosure and remain in their home, move into their first home, obtain a reverse mortgage to help them achieve their financial goals, or find suitable rental housing,” she said. “Specific to reverse mortgage counseling, this grant helps offset the total cost of providing counseling to seniors who are in the process of determining if a reverse mortgage is in their best interest.”
The initial award amount was revealed in June, and applications for receiving benefit payments were due on July 1. Nearly half of the state and local counseling agencies that have been awarded HUD grants received preference, “because they will provide counseling to individuals and families within designated ‘Opportunity Zones,’” HUD said in the announcement release.
Opportunity Zones were created out of the passage of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and aim to stimulate long-term investments in low-income communities through the offering of capital gains tax relief to individuals and organizations who invest in distressed areas.
“This initiative is anticipated to spur $100 billion in private capital investment in Opportunity Zones,” HUD said. “Incentivizing investment in low-income communities fosters economic revitalization, job creation, and promotes sustainable economic growth across the nation, especially in communities HUD serves.”
However, the amount of funds in these counseling grants has been on a visibly downward trajectory for the last couple of years. The $43 million figure in 2019 is a drop from 2018’s figure of $47 million, which itself was down from 2017’s figure of $50 million.
Read a comprehensive summary of each counseling grant at HUD.