Housing Counseling OK’ed in Obama Budget, Future Uncertain

After past years of uncertainty with respect to housing counseling funding and a recent sequester impacting the program, the president’s budget this week outlined $55 million in funds for Department of Housing and Urban Development programs including reverse mortgage counseling.

While the amount was less than agencies had hoped for, it is more than the $42 million ultimately appropriated last year; $4 million of which was designated for reverse mortgage counseling. The amount is seen as a starting point for what will ultimately lead to funding allocations in fiscal year 2014 to be made later this year.

Having had housing counseling funding wiped out entirely in 2011, national intermediaries responded favorably to the budget news but say the future is still uncertain.

“We went into this year knowing there would be some changes as a result of the sequestration,” says Bruce McClary, spokesman for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions. “We have to face the reality that agencies might not get exactly what they would have asked for last year or the years before.”

Agencies that rely less on HUD funding and more on alternative sources may be better positioned in the coming year, McClary says, given the multiple sources of pressure on counseling programs.

“A lot of agencies that look beyond the HUD grant were really well positioned to meet the changes [this year].”

Yet the agencies say they are committed to providing counseling, however it may be funded.

“Due to the federal HECM counseling requirements in place, The National Council on Aging views adequate funding of HECM counseling to be imperative,” says Amy Ford, director of reverse mortgage counseling services network for the NCOA. “NCOA supports the President’s funding level for Housing Counseling, and remains hopeful of the Administration’s commitment to strong consumer protections in the reverse mortgage industry.”

Even if funding goes away, agencies will find a solution for continuing to provide the services, McClary says.

“We will do what we can to reshuffle the puzzle pieces to keep providing reverse mortgage counseling,” says McClary.

Written by Jason Oliva

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