Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) swore in several new members of its Federal Housing Counseling Advisory Committee, including a new representative for the reverse mortgage industry. Carol Dujanovich, VP of operations at Michigan-based 1st Nations Reverse Mortgage and now a member of the committee, joined the latest episode of The RMD Podcast to discuss the implications of her membership for herself, as well as for the industry at large.
While, like many people, Dujanovich found her way into the reverse mortgage industry over time, her dedication to the business has only grown over time and now culminates in this new appointment, an achievement for her as well as the visibility of the reverse mortgage industry in the eyes of HUD. Dujanovich also shares that she has had conversations with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, which may offer some insight into her perspectives on the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program and offers thoughts on the priority of aging place for HUD and its leaders in the Joe Biden administration.
Becoming aware of potential committee service
When asked about how she became aware of the potential she had to serve on the committee, Dujanovich describes her desire to become involved as stemming from the importance of counseling to the reverse mortgage equation for borrowers.
“In part of HUD’s communications, they sent out a request to the mortgage industry, looking for candidates to send in an application to the advisory committee,” she says. “Housing counseling for reverse mortgages is an integral part of it, and I’ve always been interested in the counseling aspect of it because I’m involved in the business on a daily basis with every loan that comes through. So I submitted my resume and my credentials, in hopes of representing the industry.”
An additional component of her desire to join the committee stems from the potential for more representation for the reverse mortgage industry, something that the business has had to struggle for in the past, and the reverse representation on this specific committee has been limited.
“The council has mortgage industry citizens, they also have real estate [industry participants], so someone representing all of the different areas. I wanted to represent the mortgage aspect, specifically the reverse. There has been one representative of the reverse industry, and that was on the counseling side several years ago. But, I am told that no one has represented reverse mortgages on the committee before.”
In terms of what the committee generally aims to accomplish, facilitating homeownership for more people is the name of the game, Dujanovich explains.
“It really is a vehicle to help people understand how to obtain and retain their homeownership, sustain their homes, and in my case to support aging in place,” she says. “To make sure that everyone does understand that there are resources out there should you be facing eviction or foreclosure, that there are resources out there. And so many times, especially in the current climate with the pandemic, we’ve experienced clear housing issues.”
The coming year has a “rather aggressive agenda,” Dujanovich says, and the committee is hoping that the general consumer population will understand many of the additional options and services which have become available in the wake of the pandemic.
How reverse mortgages interact with the committee’s work
In addition to the immediate necessity to address severe issues in the American housing system right now, the committee’s work could interact with the reverse mortgage business by allowing more visibility to communicate that reverse options are available to seniors who may be experiencing COVID-induced housing instability, she says.
“Well, one thing we’re going to pay very close attention to is that we have put in place several housing initiatives right now,” Dujanovich explains. “And most importantly, we’ll be working very closely with the counseling agencies that are out there. As I said, each reverse transaction requires the borrowers to attend a counseling session, whether it’s face-to-face or [over the] telephone. Our goal is to educate and to ensure that everyone understands that there are options out there. And most importantly, with HECM counseling, that there are people that they can go to for help.”
Perspectives of the HUD Secretary, and how the committee’s work can now include reverse mortgage input
Dujanovich elaborated, saying that reverse mortgage representation on the committee may be more critical now than it ever has been before.
“What the entire committee is about is to maintain homeownership,” she says. “The reverse industry is a very small segment of mortgage lending, and I think in my conversations with Secretary [Fudge], [we’ve discussed] broadening people’s understanding of the reverse industry.”
Work already being done includes counseling for potential homebuyers and people facing foreclosure, homeless veterans, and many others. This leaves a blatantly overlooked population segment, however, Dujanovich says.
“[The] segment now that I think has been really overlooked [is the] the senior borrower,” she says. “So there hasn’t been anyone that either requested a place on the committee, but I guess I presented the opportunity to have someone represent the reverse world.”
When explicitly asked about her interactions with Secretary Fudge, Dujanovich says that access to the Secretary provides a unique opportunity for the industry to be heard by a cabinet-level official in the federal government. Still, Dujanovich also senses a degree of receptivity about reverse mortgages from Fudge, she says.
“I think we’re getting a little bit more attention,” she explains. “I think the [biggest] problem that they’re facing right now is the housing shortage. So, I don’t think we’re going to be at the top of the list quite yet, but I think we’ll get there. With the pandemic, everyone is experiencing a shortage of standard housing [and more] affordable housing. But I do think being on the committee [will make our industry] a little bit more front and center, it will give us a voice, and I hopefully will be able to do that and represent our industry.”
Listen to the latest episode of The RMD Podcast for the full interview with Carol Dujanovich.