The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal awarded $848,384 to two local organizations to fund free financial counseling for homeowners in New York City. Through state funding, the Center for New York City Neighborhoods will be able to extend its call center operations, including its foreclosure prevention hotline. The funding will also help the firm develop a new pilot program to integrate councilors from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment (the second organization included in the grant) into the CNYCN network of counseling agencies. "Since its inception in early 2009, CNYCN's Call Center has communicated with over 10,000 homeowners through incoming calls, outreach calls and mailings, directing them to free housing counseling and legal services provided by over 70 organizations located in all five boroughs," said Michael Hickey, executive director of CNYCN. "DHCR's original support enabled the founding of our Call Center, and with this additional funding we will not only be able to continue this important consumer service, but extend even deeper supports to assist homeowners suffering from job loss and other economic pressures." New York City homeowners connect to the call center by dialing 311 and saying "foreclosure." The counseling service is available free of charge. The new pilot program is designed not only to expand the network of councilors available to homeowners, but also to expand the the area where the service is accessible. The goal is to extend financial education to communities traditionally underserved by financial education providers, such as Staten Island, and communities with high rates of foreclosure and unemployment, such as North Bronx, northeast Queens, Jamaica and East New York. Jonathan Mintz, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, said knowledge is the key component to helping homeowners. "By providing New Yorkers with the 'gold standard' of financial education – one on one financial counseling – in concert with the foreclosure prevention services already offered by CNYCN, we will be able to arm clients with the tools and resources necessary to address all components of their financial picture." The expenditure follows a more than $500 million grant allocated by the State of New York to the New York State Housing Finance Agency and the Affordable Housing Corporation last month. The grant will be used to build and renovate affordable housing, as well as promote business development and create jobs. Write to Christine Ricciardi.