The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity held a hearing, “HUD and NeighborWorks Housing Counseling Oversight,” on September 14.
Subcommittee Chair Judy Biggert (R-IL) noted that one reason that funding is not provided for the housing counseling program in the House appropriations subcommittee bill this year is the slow disbursement of program funds by HUD.
There was no funding provided for HUD’s housing counseling program in FY11 (see Memo, 4/22). The FY12 House Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) subcommittee appropriations bill, approved by the subcommittee on September 7, did not restore funding for housing counseling (see Memo, 9/9). The bill would also prohibit HUD from using personnel funding for housing counseling activities until HUD “completes a plan detailing by program and activity and by object class how such funding will be expended for Housing Counseling Assistance activities.” The plan would have to be submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.
Deborah Holston, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Housing at HUD, said that HUD has implemented a number of reforms to improve and expedite the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process for the housing counseling program.
Another concern about the program is the lack of evidence on the effectiveness of housing counseling. “The limited body of literature on homeownership counseling does not provide conclusive findings on the impact of all types of homeownership counseling,” said Alicia Puente Cackley, Director, Financial Markets and Community Investment, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in her written testimony.
In response to a question from Ms. Biggert, Ms. Holston said that HUD is conducting an outcome evaluation to better track the effectiveness of housing counseling programs. The results of the evaluation will be available in approximately one year.
The Subcommittee released a draft proposal, “Housing Counseling Transparency and Fairness Act of 2011,” that would require all of NeighborWorks America’s housing counseling activities be subject to oversight by the Director of Housing Counseling at HUD. Eileen Fitzgerald, Chief Executive Officer of NeighborWorks, noted in her written testimony that there are many entities that oversee NeighborWorks, including the GAO. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (PL 111-203) required HUD to form an Office of Housing Counseling and HUD reports that it is moving forward on establishing the office.
While a large portion of the hearing discussed homeownership counseling programs, Candy Hill, Senior Vice President, Social Policy and Government Affairs, Catholic Charities USA, said in her testimony that “many community-based organizations rely on housing counseling programs to prevent homelessness and help people access affordable housing.”
All witness testimony and an archived hearing webcast are available at: http://financialservices.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=258735