Citi Community Development and National Council of La Raza Support Expansion of Housing Counseling Programs in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN, P.R., May 31, 2017 /3BL Media/– The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and Citi Community Development kicked off an initiative today to provide training and technical assistance for four leading local housing counseling agencies and expand access to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -certified counseling and foreclosure prevention services for low- and moderate-income families across Puerto Rico. The initiative aims to increase the number of families who can avoid foreclosures and preserve assets as well as help local families develop financial management skills to save and build credit.
Citi Community Development provided $250,000 in funding to support four local housing counseling organizations – NCLR Affiliates PathStone, One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Neighborhood Housing Services and Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services– to build their capacity to serve more clients and support training provided to counselors, a critical advancement at a moment when mortgage defaults and home foreclosures continue to rise across the island. In addition, $50,000 was provided to Puerto Rico Community Foundation to help build the capacity of nonprofit housing developers to acquire and rehabilitate residential properties and expand housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents.
The trainings for housing counselors will be provided in Spanish by NCLR, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., in order to strengthen Puerto Rico’s supportive ecosystem both for struggling homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure and aspiring homebuyers. The trainings will also ensure that local counselors continue to meet HUD standards. The two scheduled training events will also support the broader objective of creating elements for future economic growth and restoring opportunities for the people of Puerto Rico.
“Borrowers who use housing counseling are at least 30 percent less likely to go into foreclosure, according to HUD. Also, additional research by The Urban Institute shows that borrowers who have missed payments on a mortgage are up to 50 percent more likely to get up-to-date with their payments with the help of counseling,” said Lily Lopez, Senior Vice President, Citi Community Development. “By supporting the training and certification of housing counselors, this collaboration with NCLR will strengthen the ability of these local housing counseling organizations to preserve and create homeownership opportunities for families and communities, which will help stabilize more neighborhoods across the Commonwealth.”
Since the economic crisis in 2008, Puerto Ricans are facing an unemployment rate of over 11 percent, and have been falling into default and foreclosure at rising rates -- even as the housing market elsewhere in the United States has stabilized. According to the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico, the rate of foreclosures has risen approximately 90 percent in less than a decade. In addition, more than 10 percent of the population has moved away from the island.
“For PathStone in Puerto Rico, financial support from Citi has been fundamental to continue to expand our homeownership services, especially to assist low and moderate income families to prevent foreclosure of their homes,” said María G. Rodríguez-Collazo, Director of Housing Programs at PathStone. “Citi's collaboration has been key to achieving our mission to increase the number of homebuyers on the island."
“Citi has brought opportunities to develop and strengthen housing counseling organizations in order to provide families affordable housing counseling services and guidance,” said Elizabeth Colón Rivera, Executive Director of Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services.
For the past two years, Citi has enabled NCLR to offer similar trainings in Puerto Rico, demonstrating a strong and continued commitment to partnering with non-profit agencies to address local housing needs.
“The importance of increasing the staff capacity of local housing agencies is an essential first step in helping to address housing issues. These are the people, the organizations that are on the ground providing real support and advice to countless families who are facing foreclosure or economic instability,” said Lot Diaz, Vice President, Housing & Community Development, NCLR. “Citi has been and continues to be a valued partner by investing in the ability of non-profit housing agencies to serve their communities and finding innovative ways to serve families in need.”
“The housing counseling organizations HUD supports provide families with the information and tools they need the most, from preventing foreclosure to locating affordable rental housing, and offering advice on how to buy a home, so that the household can afford to sustain their homes in the long run.” Said Efrain Maldonado, HUD’s Field Office Director in San Juan. “This training is very much welcomed during these challenging times. HUD studies show that in many instances counseled homeowners with delinquent mortgages were able to obtain a remedy, retain their home, and become current on their mortgages.”
In 2016, Citi Community Capital (CCC) provided $17 million for Las Gladiolas in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a new construction of 140 units in 17 buildings on 7.2 acres of land – 80 percent of which will be occupied by individuals living at or below 60 percent of the area median income. CCC has provided $58.5 million in financing across Puerto Rico since 2012.
Since 1997, the NCLR Homeownership Network (NHN) has helped over 580,000 families with their housing counseling needs. The program advises families in the home-buying process; helps them with their current mortgage; and provides financial, budgeting, and money-management advice. The NHN Learning Alliance provided training to over 8,400 housing counselors that includes over $4.3 million in scholarships to local professionals.
The NCLR Financial Capability training began today, May 31, 2017, and the Foreclosure Prevention training will be held later this fall. Local attendees were given materials to take back to their agencies, and provided access to an online training system. Counselors will also have the ability to access the materials for a period of 30 days in preparation for a certification exam.
For more information about NHNLA and to find out about dates for upcoming courses, please visit: www.nhnla.org.
NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to build a stronger America by creating opportunities for Latinos. For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.
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