In 2004, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a national nonprofit created by Congress, engaged HERG to conduct a national survey of clients receiving homeownership education and counseling from the network of local NeighborWorks® Organizations (NWOs). Surveys were returned by 759 households served by 15 not-for-profit counseling agencies across the US, yielding a detailed perspective on the experiences of these low- and moderate-income home buyers.
In its second year (2005), the HERG project established an Advisory Board to explore the issues uncovered by the survey, including trends in post-purchase difficulties encountered by NWO home buyers. Although the survey found that the counseling agencies were successful in helping hard-to-reach populations embark on homeownership, it also suggested that a considerable number of NWO clients, even those at risk or in need, did not seek help when encountering difficulties after purchase. Moreover, failure to contact the counseling agency under these circumstances was associated with many disadvantages, such as higher refinancing costs and higher likelihood of loan delinquency.
Year 3 (2006) of the HERG project involved a series of focus groups to explore post-purchase problems (including mortgage delinquency and threat of foreclosure) from the point of view of low-income homeowners, as well as from the perspective of nonprofit counseling agency staff who work with these homeowners. Focus groups were conducted in Texas, Ohio, Georgia, New York and Missouri, sites selected because of a high incidence of foreclosure and/or particularly interesting responses from nonprofits to the problem. After presenting a picture of low-income homeowners’ help-seeking behavior as derived from the focus groups, the final report for Year 3 concludes with an extensive set of best practices and recommendations for the nonprofit counseling agencies, the mortgage lenders, and policy-makers.
The Project’s Year 2 Report:
The Project’s Year 3 Executive Summary:
The Project’s Year 3 Final Report:
See also “American Nightmare”, by Desiree Fields, Francine Justa, Kimberly Libman, and Susan Saegert. This article is based on the project’s focus group research and appears in Shelterforce, Summer 2007, an issue devoted to the foreclosure crisis.
Sponsors of the homeownership education research project: Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (also known as NeighborWorks® America) and Freddie Mac; additional sponsors: Amalgamated Bank, Bank of New York, BPD Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, F. B. Heron Foundation, M & T Charitable Foundation, Ridgewood Savings Bank, St. Paul Travelers Foundation, State Farm Insurance, Sterling National Bank