December 2018, Volume 7 Issue 06

Housing Counseling Certification Progress

Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 was an exciting year for the housing counselor certification process! The Office of Housing Counseling focused on outreach and training, website updates, and increasing awareness of the housing counselor certification process. Upgrades to systems were also integral in improving the certification process. Results included substantial increases in website usage and examination preparation and, of course, HUD certification of housing counselors!

Many counselors studied for the certification examination. By the end of September 2018, 9,535 users were registered on www.hudhousingcounselors.com and 9,501 users had completed one or more of the online training modules. Office of Housing Counseling training partners also reported training over 6,700 counselors for the certification examination in the last two fiscal years. During FY 2018, the online practice examination was taken 1,770 times.

Major updates to the training content, practice examination, and certification examination on www.hudhousingcounselors.com were launched August 28, 2018, to reflect the new Flex Modification program offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, updates to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) single family mortgages, and revisions to improve readability of the training materials. The contractor also conducted an extensive review of the certification examination questions based on test-taker performance and updated approximately 20 percent of the questions. The proctoring service also added access to a virtual pen and paper during the certification examination for candidates taking the examination online or at a proctoring center.

Another goal for the Office of Housing Counseling during the last fiscal year was educating other HUD program stakeholders about housing counselor certification and how this requirement may impact covered HUD programs. Staff participated in 15 Community Planning and Development (CPD) stakeholders meeting, and the Office of Housing Counseling conducted two webinars for CPD and Public and Indian Housing stakeholders.

The Office of Housing Counseling also provided national training webinars for housing counselors and agencies on the certification process and homeownership counseling. All training webinars are archived on the HUD Exchange under Webinar Archive.

Counselor certification was a frequent topic for The Bridge. The monthly newsletter featured articles focusing on agency and counselor success stories, tips, and information on the certification process. If you missed any issues, these articles can be found through the searchable Bridge Archive.

HUD also updated systems and webpages. HUD’s Housing Counseling System (HCS) updates included adding “certified housing counselor” to agency information, and a searchable database for agencies with certified housing counselors was added to HUD.gov. The searchable database can also be used to verify that a housing counselor is certified by looking up that counselor’s FHA Connection identification number. The housing counselor certification webpages on HUD Exchange were also updated to include more information on the certification process and how to register through FHA Connection.

Housing Counselor Certification was a popular topic at the Intermediary Meeting held in August at HUD Headquarters. Training included a best practice model for planning and implementing certification for an agency’s network. Sarah Gerecke, Deputy Assistant Secretary, strongly urged all housing counseling agencies to get moving and certify their counselors well before the regulatory deadline of August 2020.

Congratulations to all the housing counselors that became certified this past fiscal year! Since launch of the certification examination in August 2017, 452 individuals have passed the certification examination and HUD has certified a total of 349 counselors through the end of September 2018.

Agencies lacking an FHA Connection Application Coordinator (FHAC AC) continued to be a challenge for the certification of housing counselors. As of September 30, 2018, only 171 of the participating agencies had an FHAC AC. This individual is critical to the certification process and verify a counselor’s employment with the agency. The counselor cannot become certified without FHAC AC confirmation of employment. Detailed steps on how to register for FHAC AC can be found on the HUD Exchange under Housing Counselor Certification.

A question frequently asked during last fiscal year’s outreach related to changes in examination fees. Currently, HUD is not planning to increase examination fees. If a change in fees will occur, HUD will announce the fee change through a federal register notice at least 60 days in advance of the change.

The Office of Housing Counseling thanks the numerous HUD program staff, contractors, agencies, and individuals that have supported housing counselor certification throughout the last year, including our training partners, individuals that submitted training and examination feedback, agencies that provided articles to the The Bridge, andagencies that formed local and regional study groups. The Office of Housing Counseling will continue outreach and awareness activities in FY 2019 and expects a substantial increase in certified housing counselors. Please continue to submit your feedback to www.hudhousingcounselors.com through the Support tab or send an email to housing.counseling@hud.gov with the subject line: “Counselor Certification Feedback.”

Still not sure about taking the examination in FY 2019? Stay tuned for testimonials from counselors that have passed the examination in upcoming Bridge issues.

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