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Nonprofits in Little Rock, Harrison, Russellville get grants for housing counseling

May 23, 2024 at 3:05 p.m. FILE - Members of the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Programs pose for a photo during a ribbon cutting outside a new affordable house in Little Rock during a ceremony recognizing the end of construction on April 3, 2024. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)


Four nonprofits in Arkansas are among the 165 housing counseling agencies nationwide to get Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding to expand counseling services for homebuyers, homeowners and renters.

The four in Arkansas are In Affordable Housing ($30,897) and Southern Bancorp ($31,645) in Little Rock, the Northwest Regional Housing Authority in Harrison ($16,915) and the Universal Housing Development Corporation (UHDC, $16,187) in Russellville.

"This past year, HUD-approved housing counseling agencies reached almost one million Americans, providing them with invaluable advice on important topics like financial literacy, maintaining a home, and avoiding foreclosure," said HUD acting secretary Adrianne Todman in a statement last week announcing the funding. "Today, we are providing $40 million more to expand these services -- specifically for underserved communities -- so we can build the next generation of homeowners and close the racial homeownership gap."

There are 1,480 HUD-approved housing counseling agencies in the U.S. that supported the nearly 1 million individuals and families last year. Since 2020, HUD has awarded $140 million in grants to support housing counseling, which helps people with budgeting, financial and emergency preparedness education, one-on-one counseling, helping homeless people transition into affordable housing and helping seniors with reverse mortgages.

"We were thrilled to be awarded that money; of course, there's always more need than there is funding, it seems like. But we're certainly grateful for it," UHDC housing counseling program Director Lacey Walters said in an interview.

She said UHDC has met with thousands of people since becoming a HUD-approved housing counseling agency in 1977, whether by new construction, housing rehabilitation or free classes for 2,885 new homebuyers since 1996.

Executive Director Beverly Massey said grant funding mostly pays personnel costs. She said those investments have meant more than $100 million added to the local economy over the decades, per reports to the NeighborWorks America community development nonprofit.

"With them taking the classes and purchasing a house, they're paying taxes and insurance. If they're building a new house, they're buying supplies and construction material, keeping contractors in business," Massey said. "We get all the information from the sale of the property."

UHDC applies for federal funding year over year, but the $16,187 from the HUD Office of Housing Counseling "is certainly something that we always hope for," Walters said.

"It's certainly not guaranteed, especially the amount: it's something we can't really predict, because it's really determined by HUD, but it's something we really always, always are looking for as we continue efforts," she said.

Meanwhile, several federal departments have been assisting West Memphis institute homeownership counseling programs and new housing construction through the Thriving Communities Program.

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