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Fighting foreclosures, one homeowner at a time

August 15, 2012

For Immediate Release

ST. PAUL, MN – As foreclosures continue to threaten the financial stability of Minnesota families and neighborhoods, the Minnesota Department of Commerce today announced four recipients of competitive grants focused on stemming the impact of foreclosures in our communities. 

The competitive grants, funded by the Commerce Department’s Real Estate Education, Research and Recovery Fund (RERF), are designed to fund free mortgage counseling and financial literacy training services for at-risk homeowners. Four grantees were awarded a total of $250,000 by the Department for participation in this year’s program, including the Minnesota Homeownership Center, Lutheran Social Services, Urban Homeworks, and the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.

“The fight against foreclosures in our communities cannot be won with one method or one organization alone – it will take all of us working together to preserve the financial health, safety, and stability of our housing market,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Each of the grant recipients has demonstrated its own unique ability to make a successful impact on homeownership and financial literacy. We look forward to working with these organizations as they continue the fight against foreclosure, one homeowner at a time.”

For the first time in the program’s history, RERF grantees were selected through a competitive RFP process. And for the first time, participants were required to incorporate financial literacy efforts in support of low- and moderate-income Minnesota consumers who face barriers to successful homeownership. Grant applicants were also asked to demonstrate how their proposals would: 
  • Educate potential homebuyers or homeowners working to sustain their mortgages; 
  • Provide pre- and post-purchase home buyer education; 
  • Provide financial literacy counseling in support of stable homeownership including wise use of credit, financial management, budgeting, etc.; 
  • Support consumer protection outreach and education; and 
  • Deliver culturally competent outreach initiatives focused on building successful homeownership.
“The new partnerships created through this grant process will provide more one-on-one counseling, outreach, and financial education opportunities for homeowners across the state,” said Commissioner Rothman. “Successful homeownership and foreclosure prevention helps secure the financial stability for Minnesota families and neighborhoods – and that is an investment in our communities worth making.”

The RERF was created to compensate Minnesotans who have lost money due to unscrupulous acts of a real estate broker, sales person or closing agent or used to provide education related to successful home ownership. Response to the request for proposals exceeded expectations, 18 proposals from nonprofit organizations across the state requested over $1.3 million in funding. In all, $250,000 was awarded to the following four Minnesota nonprofits.

Minnesota Home Ownership Center ($75,000)
The Minnesota Homeownership Center brings two decades of experience supporting the delivery of homebuyer education and foreclosure counseling services. Representing a network of 50 certified agencies, the Center will use the $75,000 grant to empower families to achieve and sustain homeownership with an emphasis on emerging markets facing barriers to homeownership, engage industry professionals in new partnerships, and inform Minnesotans on a range of homeownership related topics and tools – with a focus on consumer protection.    

Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota ($65,000)
Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSS) is the largest direct service provider of both foreclosure prevention counseling and financial education in the state. LSS will implement a broad, multi-level campaign that builds public awareness of solid consumer financial information and access to safe, free counseling and education resources in the areas of refinance and mortgage support counseling, financial literacy counseling in support of stable homeownership, consumer protection outreach and enhanced website information on pre-purchase and foreclosure prevention with the $65,000 provided through the RERF grant.

Urban Homeworks ($50,000)
Urban Homeworks, PROJECT: Reclaim (P:R) is an innovative community development project that produces housing for low-income families in response to the foreclosure crisis that developed in the past few years.  With the $50,000 awarded to Urban Homeworks, P:R will provide intense one-on-one homebuyer education for low- to moderate-income households and homeownership opportunities of  targeted rehabbed foreclosed, vacant, or boarded properties to turn around blighted, instable neighborhoods.

Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership ($60,000)
Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP) located in Slayton, Minnesota has over twenty years of experience meeting emerging housing needs and will partner with Three Rivers Community Action (TRCA) to deliver the services funded by the $60,000 RERF grant funds.  The services provided through SWMHP include: pre- and post-purchase homebuyer education, refinance and mortgage support counseling, counseling on financial literacy in support of stable homeownership, development and use of culturally competent homeowner education, and outreach efforts to target emerging markets across the southern half of Minnesota.