HUD to award $79 million in grants to reduce foreclosures and help families

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The Washington Post
By: Ovetta Wiggins
August 6, 2010

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced Thursday that $79 million in federal grants will be made available to reduce foreclosures and assist families looking for housing.

The money, a 36 percent increase over last year's amount, will be awarded to 550 HUD-approved agencies that provide counseling on foreclosure prevention, homeownership, reverse mortgages and mortgage scams.

Marcia J. Griffin, president of HomeFree-USA, said that her group sees 1,000 people a month in its Hyattsville office and that the new funding will go a long way to address a situation that does not seem to be going away.

"The problem is increasing, but [the funding] shows there is an awareness on the part of Congress and HUD," Griffin said.

At a news conference at a Riverdale church, Donovan, who was joined by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), commended counselors for their work in Prince George's County. The county had 13,000 foreclosure filings last year -- the most in Maryland and one of the highest numbers in the Washington region.

In the first quarter of this year, foreclosures in Maryland spiked 60 percent compared with that period last year, although they were down 12 percent from the last quarter of 2009.

Donovan said that 3.6 million U.S. families have been assisted by HUD-approved counselors since April last year, but the department still needs the agencies' help.

"It has not been an easy time for Prince George's County or many of the communities throughout the country," Donovan said. "We need your help in connecting us with the people."

Housing advocates and officials said that many financially strapped homeowners who need help tend to be too ashamed to come forward, leaving them more vulnerable to foreclosure.

The problem "is not going anywhere," said Lisa Butler McDougal, executive director of SEED, a Riverdale-based counseling agency. "People were coming in before because they had subprime loans. Now it's because they don't have jobs."

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