The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced nearly $42 million in housing counseling grants to help families find housing or keep the housing they have.

These grants will assist families in becoming first-time homeowners or remain homeowners after their purchase, HUD said, and renters and homeless individuals and families will also benefit from the counseling offered by the grants.

Grants were awarded to 18 national and regional organizations and approximately 362 state and local housing counseling agencies, according to HUD.

“These organizations will provide counseling services that will help meet the President’s goal of increasing minority home ownership by 5.5 million families by the end of the decade,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

The secretary said families are receiving counseling services than ever before and more families are purchasing and keeping their homes. The program also helps educate and protect them from predatory lenders, Jackson said.

National and regional agencies distribute much of the HUD funding to community-based grassroots organizations that provide advice and guidance to low- and moderate-income families seeking to improve their housing conditions.

In addition, these larger organizations help improve the quality of housing counseling services and enhance coordination among other counseling providers.

Of the nearly $42 million in housing counseling grants, $2.5 million is specifically to combat predatory lending, including awards to six national intermediaries and 46 state and local organizations, HUD said.

Grantees will assist unwary borrowers to avoid unreasonably high interest rates, inflated appraisals, unaffordable repayment terms, and other conditions that can result in a loss of equity, increased debt, default, and even foreclosure, according to HUD.

Another $1.4 million of the grant total is specifically for counseling in conjunction with HUD’s Section 8 Homeownership Voucher Program, which allows low-income individuals to use rental vouchers to purchase homes.

Awards under this category are made to five national intermediaries and 36 state and local agencies. These grant recipients will help program participants realistically evaluate their readiness for a home purchase and understand their financing and down-payment options, according to HUD.

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