FIRST-TIME AND LOW-INCOME home buyers may soon have access to more counseling services as the result of an amendment to the appropriations act for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The amendment increases funding for HUD-certified housing counseling services by $6.76 million for a total budget of $48.34 million in fiscal year 2008.

Affordable housing advocates frequently cite pre-purchase counseling as a major tool in reducing the risk of default. Counseling helps buyers understand the financial obligations of homeownership and choose a home that best fits their budget.

“Purchasing a home, especially for first-time buyers, can be incredibly daunting,” says U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), one of three co-sponsors of the amendment and ranking member of the House Financial Services Housing and Community Opportunity subcommittee. “For many, it's the first legal contract they ever sign. At the same time, buyers must contend with the personal stress of making what is often the largest single investment in their life. As a former real estate attorney, I know how vital it is that buyers have reliable experts to talk to before closing on a home.”

With the additional funding, the agencies that provide the counseling will be able to hire additional counselors, pay the costs of providing services, and train counselors to address particular concerns, such as default counseling, which has experienced a significant rise in demand, Biggert says. The House of Representatives approved the appropriations bill and referred it to the Senate for consideration.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE COUNSELING SERVICES AMENDMENT, VISIT OUR WEB SITE AT WWW.BUILDERONLINE.COM, CLICK ON “THE MAGAZINE” TAB, AND THEN CLICK ON “BUILDER ARTICLE LINKS.”