Initiative will help quantify & qualify program impacts, position agencies to better serve consumers

For Immediate Release: August 3, 2020
Contact: Kristin Ginger, Communications Manager, Housing Action Illinois, or 312-854-3333

CHICAGO – Housing Action Illinois is collaborating with Freddie Mac to create a uniform data standard for the housing counseling industry. This standardization will improve tracking of housing counseling impacts and outcomes, help agencies respond more quickly to marketplace trends, and facilitate better communication with mortgage originators and servicers.

“This will affect more than 1,600 HUD-approved housing counseling agencies across the country,” stated David Young, Director of Capacity Building at Housing Action Illinois. “Our initiative will help the industry better quantify and qualify our work. It will also get us speaking the same language in the mortgage industry and help us provide more assistance to consumers looking to purchase a home—as well as current homeowners who are facing challenges.”

Although HUD collects the same data from all housing counseling agencies, any additional information collected varies depending on the individual organization, housing counseling intermediary, or Client Management System (CMS). After the 2008 financial crisis, the housing counseling industry recognized the need for a common data standard to measure impacts and outcomes and better respond to consumer needs. The National Housing Resource Center (NHRC) organized a working group to explore the issue and asked Housing Action Illinois to chair the committee.

“This initiative will bring the housing counseling data reporting standards into the 21st century, with the ability to have housing counseling agencies communicate in the same digital language as Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, mortgage lenders, servicers, and the rest of the housing industry,” states Bruce Dorpalen, Executive Director of NHRC. “This is an important step forward in the housing counseling work to increase homeownership, to prevent unnecessary foreclosures, to find affordable rental opportunities for tenants, and to educate housing consumers.”

The first phase of this data standardization initiative involved Housing Action Illinois partnering with Brick Bridge Consulting in 2019 to analyze data relevant to housing counseling from the MISMO (Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization) Logical Data Dictionary. This initial dataset was presented at a Freddie Mac technology convening in January 2020.

Now, Freddie Mac, Housing Action and Brick Bridge will be able to move into the second phase of the project: expanding the dataset to include relevant data points from across the housing counseling industry. After gathering input and feedback from key stakeholders, the partners will determine which data points should be included in a more comprehensive dataset, then present the data to MISMO for consideration.

“We look forward to the launch of a new, more comprehensive dataset that more accurately captures the work being done by housing counseling agencies across the country,” stated Cindy Waldron, Vice President, Housing Insights and Solutions at Freddie Mac. “By taking on this ambitious project, Housing Action Illinois is helping us better understand what housing counseling agencies are accomplishing and what they need to accomplish.”

During the first phase of this initiative, Housing Action and Brick Bridge also created a gap analysis tool to help Client Management System (CMS) developers determine the costs and time needed to make their systems compliant with the initial dataset. Going forward, the partners will interview CMS developers and work with them to ensure that their platforms collect newly required data.

This comprehensive approach of engaging CMS developers along with housing counseling agencies and other key stakeholders will help the industry move forward together. The initiative will better position the housing counseling industry to support consumers and communities as housing and rental markets shift.

About Housing Action Illinois
Housing Action Illinois is a statewide coalition that has been leading the movement to protect and expand the availability of quality, affordable housing in Illinois for more than 30 years. Our 160+ member organizations include housing counseling agencies, homeless service providers, developers of affordable housing and policymakers. We bring everyone together to work toward our vision of an Illinois where everyone has a stable, good home.