NeighborWorks Gets Housing Counseling Grant

June 18, 2013 

NeighborWorks Columbus, a local agency that focuses on affordable housing and community development, will receive a $17,429 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help educate first-time homebuyers and prevent foreclosures.

HUD announced Tuesday that the Columbus Housing Initiative Inc., doing business as NeighborWorks Columbus, is one of 13 housing counseling agencies in Georgia that will receive a total of $693,825 as part of a $40 million national grant program. HUD is also awarding nearly $29 million to national, regional and multi-state housing counseling agencies that could impact local communities, according to a news release issued by the HUD.

Cathy Williams, president and CEO of NeighborWorks Columbus, said the grant will be used to serve about 75 to 100 clients. She said the organization did a recent study comparing clients who participated in an 8-hour education program to those who went through more intense financial counseling that addressed budgeting, credit and other issues.

“What we saw was that those that just sat in a class for eight hours had a far higher rate of foreclosures than those who actually went through counseling,” she said. “It was below 1 percent.” “There’s clear evidence that counseling works,” Williams said. “It keeps people in their homes and builds assets for families over years. So, we are very pleased that we are starting to see support for that effort.”

The Columbus Housing Initiative began in 1998 to improve substandard housing conditions and revitalize blighted neighborhoods. The organization joined NeighborWorks America in 2004 and a year later began doing business as NeighborWorks Columbus.

NeighborWorks has helped 1,022 clients purchase their first homes, which represents a total investment of $97 million, according to information provided by HUD. In the past seven years, the organization has originated 90 loans for a total loan volume of $3.5 million.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said the federal grants announced Tuesday will significantly impact communities across the nation.

“The HUD-approved counseling agencies this funding supports are crucial in helping families manage their money, navigate the home-buying process, and secure their financial futures,” he said. “These grants are a smart investment to help families and individuals find and keep housing which helps promote neighborhood stability in the long term.”

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