PRNewswire/ -- More than 30,000 Americans turned to Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Greater Atlanta for housing counseling in the first half of 2008, nearly equaling the agency's total number of housing clients for all of 2007.
The increase in families seeking the nonprofit agency's help tracks the deepening of a national mortgage crisis that initially affected mostly low-income borrowers, but is now spreading to people with higher household incomes. For the first time in the 44-year history of CCCS of Greater Atlanta, the average household income of clients seeking housing counseling exceeded $40,000.
In addition to a 184 percent jump in new housing counseling sessions in the first six months of 2008 compared to last year, the agency helped many more people overall in each area of service:
-- Total counseling sessions conducted in person, by phone and over the Internet, increased from 120,000 in the first half of 2007 to 170,641 in the same period this year, an increase of more than 41 percent.
-- Bankruptcy counseling sessions increased from 79,417 in the first half of 2007 to 100,789 in the same period this year, an increase of 26.9 percent.
-- Budget and debt counseling sessions increased from 29,544 in the first half of 2007 to 38,837 in the same period this year, an increase of 31.5 percent.
"Demand for our counseling services is rising significantly as people try to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy, as well as cope with rising gasoline and food costs," said Suzanne Boas, president of CCCS of Greater Atlanta. "Our agency will add at least 80 new housing counselors in the second half of this year to continue to help people avoid foreclosure and meet other financial needs."
The hiring of 80 new housing counselors and plans to open a new metro Atlanta counseling center are the result of a $2 million grant made in June by the Ford Foundation. The grant will support the agency's expansion of a pilot test of a new software platform that lets credit counselors eliminate lengthy delays faced by homeowners in urgent need of modified mortgages.
Approximately three-fourths of housing counseling sessions during the first half of 2008 involved individuals seeking help to avoid foreclosure of their home. The Atlanta-based agency is one of the nation's leading nonprofit counseling agencies helping people seek solutions to foreclosure. It provides counseling to homeowners in all 50 states 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a 24-hour hotline, 1-888-995-HOPE.
The rise in people seeking CCCS of Greater Atlanta bankruptcy counseling follows an increase in the country's bankruptcy rate. Federal bankruptcy law requires individuals to complete credit counseling before they can file for bankruptcy. Approximately 20 percent of all of Americans who file for bankruptcy seek counseling help from CCCS of Greater Atlanta.
Budget and debt counseling primarily serves individuals struggling with credit card, medical and other unsecured debt. These people often seek help to pay their creditors. The agency tries to work out debt management plans for people who cannot make their minimum payments.