HUD expands housing counseling support for Native American tribes

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Friday announced a final rule designed to expand support for housing counseling services within Native American tribal communities.

In a new final rule published in the Federal Register, HUD outlined requirements for housing counselor certification for sessions that are conducted in connection with the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) and Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) programs. Previously, certain requirements for counseling connected to these grant programs faced impediments that could materially affect the ability to connect with tribal borrowers, the department explained.

“Housing counseling programs are an important tool to help further financial literacy — particularly for low- and moderate- income families,” HUD said in an announcement of the rule. “This can be the key to ensuring that potential homebuyers are set for long-term success and that renters avoid eviction.

“With this rule, HUD is removing previous impediments to participation in the HUD housing counseling program by Tribes, Tribally Designated Housing Entities, and other Tribal entities. HUD expects the rule to expand the number of HUD-certified housing counselors serving the unique needs of Tribal communities.”

HUD developed the new rule in concert with multiple tribal consultation and listening sessions, it explained. Tribes offered perspectives on the impediments they face and how the rules could be changed to better fit their needs.

“This rule is the result of strong collaboration among HUD’s Offices of Housing Counseling and Native American Programs and Tribal representatives to remove a long-standing barrier to delivering robust and culturally sensitive housing counseling to Tribal members,” David Berenbaum, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for housing counseling, said in the announcement. “We look forward to welcoming more Tribal entities into the HUD housing counseling network.”

Federal Housing Administration Commissioner Julia Gordon said that these communities will have added ability to be served by those who may have more firsthand knowledge of the situations lived by these clients.

“Removing this barrier means that more Tribal individuals and families can be served by a trusted source within their community — a source that understands their unique cultural perspective and housing needs,” Gordon said. “Tribal members have long been underserved in the housing market.”

The rule will go into effect on July 12, 2024. It “implement[s] a new category of HUD-certified housing counselor, called a HUD-certified Tribal housing counselor, and will implement a new Tribal housing counselor certification exam specifically for Tribes that will include adjustments for distinctions in fair housing laws pertaining to Tribes and the unique status of trust land,” HUD said in its announcement.

The final rule establishes a four-year transition period designed to “allow Tribal grantees sufficient time to ensure that housing counselors can be certified,” while HUD will also require that counseling funded in connection with IHBG or ICDBG funds are performed by counselors who are HUD-certified.

HUD will also “facilitate additional training for counselors who become certified to provide housing counseling for the IHBG and ICDBG programs,” and it will “modify study materials for housing counselor certification examinations to account for tailored content specific to Tribes.”

Last month, HUD announced $1.1 billion in funding for tribal housing and community development under the IHBG program to be distributed nationally. And in April, HUD announced a new rule aimed at bolstering the department’s Section 184 Indian Housing Loan Guarantee program, with the goal to increase lender participation and ensure access to potential Native American beneficiaries.

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