Audrey Love

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than $900,000 in housing counseling grants to HUD-approved agencies in Idaho, Washington and Oregon — including a $24,570 grant to Community Connection of Northeast Oregon in La Grande.

National and regional agencies distribute much of HUD’s housing counseling grant funding to community-based organizations that assist low- and moderate-income families to improve their housing conditions and enhance the quality of housing counseling services.

“The HUD grant supports all of (the programs we offer) — the counseling, classes, educational materials — to help folks achieve their goals,” said Debbie MacBaker, housing resource center manager at Community Connection. “We help a lot of folks (and) save a lot of homes from foreclosure, get people back on track and help people get in homes. It provides a great service for the community.”

Grant recipients such as Community Connection address the full range of housing counseling needs. This includes helping potential home buyers evaluate their readiness for a home purchase and understand their financing and down payment options. Financial capability counseling also covers budgeting, improving credit and other financial obstacles.

“As a housing counselor, I do a full analysis of what their financial situation is and come up with options for them based on their situation — options (they didn’t know they had) the day before,” MacBaker said.

Additional counseling can be sought concerning mortgage options for those working on a fixed income or those facing foreclosure. Assistance is also available for people looking for affordable rental housing or struggling to repair credit problems that restrict housing options. Overall, the agency helps clients navigate what can be a confusing and difficult home-buying or rental process.

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.