The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says its team of certified counselors licensed to discuss the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program with clients is at its current level of capacity, although growth potential of the corporate sector has opened the Department up to the possibility of expanding these ranks in the future.
HUD is also aware of some state-level counseling issues that have interacted with the reverse mortgage program, including the recent disruption of reverse mortgage business in the state of Massachusetts related to a legislative ban on the council. from a distance.
That’s according to HUD officials offering perspective on licensed counseling agencies during a call with reporters Monday morning. Officials also said $51.4 million in grants were awarded to 177 HUD-approved counseling agencies designed to support vulnerable communities, communities of color, and Americans who continue to be negatively affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Additional funds will also be made available in the form of grants to support the training of new reverse mortgage advisors.
Reverse Mortgage Advisory Capability
Asked by RMD about the availability of HUD-approved advisers to meet current levels of demand in some states, the Office of Housing Counseling said its corps of dedicated reverse mortgage advisers is currently at capacity, which should make the availability of such advice. easier sessions for those looking for reverse mortgage advice. That’s according to David Berenbaum, the deputy assistant secretary of HUD’s Housing Counseling Office.
“First in regards to the availability of counselors in accordance with federal requirements, I am pleased to report that the number of HUD-certified housing counselors – particularly those in the area of reverse mortgages – is at 100. %,” Berenbaum said in response to RMD’s query. . “So the availability of advisors across the country in this space is great right now, and we’re actually hoping to increase that number because we’re doing it. [see] future growth of the reverse mortgage program and products offered to consumers.
Regarding current counseling issues in the state of Massachusetts, Berenbaum said on-the-ground counseling providers in that state have reached out to HUD directly to offer perspective on the issues the company is facing there. , and that additional information about how the board operates and is overseen can help provide a path to additional clarity for those who are unsure.
Mass Issues and How They Interact with Remote Consulting
Berenbaum also described that while HUD hasn’t taken a specific position on Massachusetts law that restricts remote counseling under normal circumstances, the pandemic has provided a glimpse of the “new normal” when it comes to counseling. from a distance.
“We have supported our counseling groups locally in Massachusetts and elsewhere, to try to provide reliable information about how housing counseling is provided and how it is regulated,” he said. “We strongly believe that advice provided on a basis that may involve virtual advice or telephone advice has become rather the norm across the country and frankly there are many associates online [and] educational tools that benefit consumers [from] in this process.
Ideally, advice – including for reverse mortgages – involving direct contact between the client and the adviser should be a priority, but it is important to bear in mind the circumstances in which such a requirement would be an obstacle or a hindrance, Berenbaum said.
“I applaud the emphasis on face-to-face counselling, but in our time, in fact, it can be provided in more than one modality,” he said. “We have not taken a position on what has been required in Massachusetts, but we are trying to support our counseling organizations to ensure program availability.”
New grant disbursements
For the $51.4 million in grants awarded to 177 HUD-approved counseling agencies, this includes funding for agencies partnering with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) or other institutions serving minorities (MSI).
In addition to targeting assistance to those broadly affected by the pandemic, the additional funding will specifically aim to assist families in the prevention of foreclosures and rental evictions, as well as funding to advance training and education in order to attract and retain more housing counseling professionals.
“Whether a family is looking for affordable rental housing, buying their first home, or struggling to stay in their current home, now more than ever, housing counselors are meeting the housing needs of families,” said the HUD secretary. , Marcia Fudge, in a statement accompanying the funding announcement. . “We are pleased to announce these grants to 177 HUD-approved housing counseling agencies across the country to support their work and continue HUD’s mission to ensure that every American has access to safe and stable housing.”
A large majority of the total amount awarded — $49.4 million — will go toward support services provided by HUD-approved local, regional, national, and multistate counseling agencies, as well as state housing finance agencies. status, according to the HUD. $3 million of the total funding goes to 16 HUD-approved housing counseling agencies that partner with HBCUs, HSIs, or other MSIs, to “expand the roles and effectiveness of these institutions to meet the needs of their local communities and promote their partnerships with housing counseling agencies,” the Department said.
An additional $2 million was also awarded under HUD’s FY 2021 Housing Counseling Training Notice of Funding Opportunity (TNOFO) released November 2, 2021, which will go to grants that support the education and training of housing counselors, including those dedicated to the reverse mortgage category. .
“TNOFO includes training on how to provide counseling to seniors looking for home equity conversion mortgages (HECM) and training on the HUD Housing Counselor Certification Exam,” said the HUD in its funding announcement. “HUD is awarding $300,000 of the $2 million to recipient organizations that will award training scholarships to students at HBCUs, tribal colleges and universities, and other MSIs enrolled in a workforce development program in housing advice.
Read the financing announcement at the HUD.