November 2018, Volume 7 Issue 05
An Agency’s Path to Housing Counseling Certification
The path to any result or goal begins with identifying and setting in place the steps to reach the desired result or goal. It is no different for designing a plan to certify your agency or network housing counselors. We can help you design and implement a plan with some best practice suggestions and steps to consider. HUD suggests an agency should design a plan with a timeline of up to eight months for the entire process.
The first step for establishing a timeline and benchmarks for when your agency wants your counselors certified by is to understand the process for certification. The steps are outlined on the HUD Exchange at Certification.
The next step is to determine what resources are available to prepare housing counselors. Free training is available at hudhousingcounselors.com and scholarships may be available through HUD’s training grantees and other training partners. Informal study groups are also forming across the United States. If you are part of an intermediary or state housing finance network, reach out to see if your parent agency is planning to offer training. Managers also need to assure their counselors will have enough time for studying, preparing, taking, and passing the exam. HUD estimates that approximately 10 hours are needed to complete all the online training modules on hudhousingcounselors.com.
Where agency counselors will take the certification examination is also an important question to answer as part of the planning process. Counselors can either take the examination at a proctoring center or online as long as the testing space and equipment meet proctoring guidelines. Information on these guidelines can be found on hudhousingcounselors.com.
Managers must also identify who will serve as the agency’s or network’s FHA Connection coordinator. This individual is critical in the certification process for verifying counselor employment in order to certify the agency’s housing counselors. The steps for applying to become an FHA Connection Application Coordinator are also found on the Certification webpage.
Another step that is recommended for intermediaries and state housing finance agencies is modifying your quality control plan to monitor network progress to ensure that agencies meet certification requirements by August 1, 2021. The plan should include what process will be in place to certify counselors. A step that cannot be overlooked, and should also be incorporated in a good quality control plan, is the requirement of removing a counselor’s certification when they leave the subgrantee or affiliate’s employment.
This is by no means all the steps to consider for creating and implementing an agency path towards certification. It is a starting point that demonstrates the planning and decisions that need to be made in order to implement a sound plan.
The following is a presentation provided at the HUD Intermediary meeting on August 15, 2018. Although this presentation was given to intermediaries, local housing counseling agencies will find the best practices and lessons learned useful as well.