“Amidst Foreclosure Crisis, Proposed Budget Would Slash Housing Counseling.” By Paul Kiel. ProPublica, April 13, 2011. One of the primary sources of money for counseling agencies is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The budget agreement would reduce that program’s funding from $88 million to zero. The effect on agencies would be “absolutely devastating,” said Judy Hunter of the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, a non-profit based in Sacramento, Calif. The HUD funding is “really the spine on which housing counseling programs exist,” said Bruce Dorpalen of Affordable Housing Centers of America, a national nonprofit formerly known as Acorn Housing Corporation. There are about 2,800 HUD-approved agencies throughout the country , which provide a range of services to millions of homeowners and prospective homebuyers free of charge. About half of the counseling sessions provided in 2010 were dedicated to helping those facing foreclosure, according to HUD. Meg Reilly, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, said, “these were very tough choices to make.” Reilly pointed out that the agreement had left intact a $65 million fund devoted to counseling for foreclosure avoidance. Advocates said that fund has not come close to meeting the demand of homeowners facing foreclosure. NeighborWorks , which administers the fund, requested $113 million for 2011 but received just over half that amount. Counseling agencies offer traditional services such as financial reviews and budgeting, but they also increasingly have been called upon to help homeowners navigate the often-bewildering maze they face when trying to avoid foreclosure. The Treasury Department has relied on the infrastructure of agencies in running the administration’s mortgage modification program, referring homeowners to HUD-approved counselors through a national hotline . The cuts would go into effect later this year. Agencies could seek other private or public funds to try to avoid layoffs, but some are already scrambling to make ends meet, advocates said. “What we’re seeing across the market is that both on the foreclosure front as well as with first-time homebuyers, funds to support housing counseling agencies are drying up,” said Bernell Grier, chief executive officer of Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City. The House is expected to vote on the proposed budget this week.
“Another symptom of the downturn: Unpaid fees at housing associations.” By Jeff Manning. The Oregonian. April 16, 2011. Leland Jaquay, a gregarious 32-year-old, loves his role as president of the Fairview Terrace Homeowners Association. For most of his stint on the Fairview board, the issues were generally minor, mainly stemming from “the three P’s,” as Jaquay shorthands it, the pool, parking and dog poop. That allowed Jaquay to concentrate on what he liked most: the barbecue, the casino night and other social events that helped the east-Multnomah County development build a sense of community. But in recession-plagued 2011, the problems are deeper and grimmer. Fairview, like homeowners associations all over the state, is enduring a financial storm brought on by the economic slump and housing bust. Hard-pressed residents are not paying their HOA dues in numbers that professional condo managers say they’ve never seen. The delinquencies are depriving associations of a crucial revenue stream and forcing some to defer maintenance or levy special assessments on the paying neighbors to make up the shortfall. Fairview has increased its monthly HOA dues from $175 to $260. Yet it’s not been nearly enough to cover the shortfall, which now exceeds $180,000. Jaquay’s association, like many others, has chosen to file collections lawsuits against its own members and former members. HOA dues hit a growing number of Oregonians as they moved into condos and townhomes and other planned communities. Nationally, just over 2 million people lived in communities governed by homeowner associations in 1970. By 2010, the number was 62 million.