The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Tuesday awarded nearly $40 million in counseling grants to agencies across the country, according to a statement released by the Department. However, this year’s award amount has dropped for the third consecutive year in a row.
Housing counseling agencies approved by HUD will use grant funds to support a series of counseling services designed to assist both individuals and families seeking to buy a first home; find affordable rental housing; or avoid eviction or foreclosure.
“HUD-approved housing counseling agencies are on the front lines of helping individuals and families struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a press release announcing the funding. “These housing counselors help individuals and families in need to get mortgage payment relief assistance now, and to take the steps necessary to save their homes in the future.”
Among the services that the counseling funding will help to provide for, the grant money will assist homebuyers in evaluating their readiness for a home purchase and navigating through the homebuying process. Nearly half of the award recipients are state and local counseling agencies that received preference because they will provide counseling to both individuals and families within designated Opportunity Zones, according to HUD.
“Today’s funding reinforces HUD’s commitment to the important role counseling plays in helping families make responsible choices to address their housing needs,” said Acting Federal Housing Commissioner Len Wolfson in the Department’s statement. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD-approved counselors are there to assist millions of homeowners and renters nationwide and help them keep a roof over their heads.”
Reactions from the counseling community to the disbursement of new grant funding is generally positive.
“MMI is very pleased to see that HUD has announced this funding,” said Jackie Boies, senior director of housing and bankruptcy services at Money Management International (MMI) in Sugar Land, Tex. “Our agency has seen unprecedented numbers of consumers seeking mortgage and rental counseling, as a result of the impact of COVID-19.”
Reverse mortgage counseling at MMI has also been very steady during the duration of the pandemic, Boies says.
“Seniors with home equity are more interested than ever in staying in their homes, aging in place,” she says. “Those who have become unemployed and still have forward mortgages are seeking to eliminate that payment. For many, reverse mortgages are more attractive than ever. HUD funding allows our agency, and many others support the cost of providing the counseling borrowers need as they work through their options and make these important financial decisions.”
GreenPath Financial Wellness, a Michigan-based organization which also conducts reverse mortgage counseling, reacted with appreciation to the news of the grant disbursements.
“We appreciate HUD’s ongoing support of GreenPath’s housing counseling services, which are so critical to the financial health of homeowners across the country,” said GreenPath President and CEO Kristen Holt in a statement to RMD. “COVID-19 has introduced new levels of need and uncertainty. Millions of people are on mortgage forbearances that will be ending later this year. And we know they’ll need help in exploring their financial options moving forward.”
Successful applicants that are awarded a comprehensive counseling grant are eligible to receive funding for reverse mortgage counseling, according to HUD’s funding notice.
The “nearly $40 million” figure described by HUD in 2020 continues to show a downward trajectory for HUD housing counseling grant disbursements. 2019’s figure sat at $43 million, down from 2018’s figure of $47 million, which was reduced from 2017’s figure of $50 million.