The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Counseling Program supports the delivery of a wide variety of housing counseling services to homebuyers, homeowners, low- to moderate-income renters, and the homeless. The primary objectives of the Program are to improve financial literacy, expand homeownership opportunities, improve access to affordable housing, and preserve homeownership.
The Program is authorized by:
- Section 106 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 (12 U.S.C.1701x);
- The Housing Counseling Program; Final Rule, 24 CFR Part 214, the regulations which prescribe the procedures and requirements by which the Housing Counseling Program is administered; and 42 U.S.C. Section 3533 for Housing Counseling as Amended by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.
Section 106 authorizes HUD to support organizations with providing counseling and advice to tenants and homeowners with respect to homeownership, locating affordable housing and rental assistance; property maintenance, financial management and other matters as appropriate to assist them in improving their housing conditions. National and Regional Intermediaries, Multi-State Organizations, and local public and private nonprofit agencies are eligible to participate in the Housing Counseling Program after becoming HUD-approved or by being an affiliate, sub-grantee or branch of a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. State Housing Finance Authorities may participate in the program but do not require approval. All organizations may remain in the Housing Counseling Program as long as they comply with program requirements and policy guidelines. The Housing Counseling Program is governed by the provisions of the HUD Housing Counseling Program Handbook 7610.1, 24 CFR Part 214 Final Rule, applicable Mortgagee letters, applicable OMB regulations, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) Subtitle D—Office of Housing Counseling. Sub-grantees, affiliates and branches of Intermediaries, State Housing Finance Agencies (SHFA) and Multi-State Organizations shall also conform to these policy guidelines. Additionally, organizations that receive housing counseling grant funds under the program shall also comply with all requirements and provisions outlined in the grant agreements and applicable federal regulations.
Through its network of more than 2,300 HUD-approved and participating housing counseling agencies and branch offices, the Program provides housing counseling services to families and individuals across the United States and Puerto Rico. The Office of Housing Counseling’s administration and oversight of the Housing Counseling Program involves all activities and matters relating to homeownership counseling and rental counseling, including:
- Research, grant administration, public outreach, and policy development relating to such counseling; and
- Establishment, coordination, and administration of all regulations, requirements, standards, and performance measures under programs and laws administered by the Department that relate to housing counseling, homeownership counseling (including maintenance of homes), mortgage-related counseling (including home equity conversion mortgages and credit protection options to avoid foreclosure), and rental housing counseling, including the requirements, standards, and performance measures related to housing counseling.
Currently, HUD's Housing Counseling Program approves counseling agencies, not individual counselors, with the exception of reverse mortgage counselors. HUD requires individual reverse mortgage counselors to be tested and certified, and to deliver reverse mortgage counseling, also referred to as Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) counseling, in accordance with the HUD HECM Counseling Protocol. The HUD HECM testing is a separate program with no requirements for collaboration with Comprehensive counseling certification. HUD encourages but does not currently require agencies and housing counselors to adopt National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling and Foreclosure Counseling.
Dodd-Frank expands HUD counselor certification to include other housing counseling services. The Program Office proposes to develop, or utilize existing, housing counseling standards content for pre-purchase, homebuyer education, mortgage default, rental, post-purchase, and homeless counseling services. The Program Office also proposes to develop criteria with which to approve and recognize housing counseling training, testing and certification programs for the purpose of meeting HUD standards for individual counselor approval. Acceptable training and testing methods shall measure counselor competency of standards content for the HUD Housing Counseling Program as well as National Industry Counseling Standards.
The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 requires that individual housing counselors participating in HUD’s Housing Counseling Program shall demonstrate, by written examination, competence in providing counseling in each of the following areas:
- Financial Management;
- Property Maintenance;
- Homeownership and Tenancy;
- Fair Housing Laws and Requirements;
- Housing Affordability;
- Avoidance of, and responses to, rental and mortgage delinquency and avoidance of eviction and mortgage default.