ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- Catholic Charities staff have proven they're some of the best in the nation to help residents navigate the home buying process.

Recently the Chemung and Schuyler County chapters' counselors received their HUD certification--a national requirement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The certification is a result of the 2008 housing crisis and is meant to educate current or potential homeowners. 

"[That's when] housing counseling [was put] on the front line on billboards, on bank statements--just getting out there to help save your home," says Jane Sokolowski, Program Coordinator for Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler Counties Housing Counseling Services.

The certification means counselors are well equipped to help and advise in all sorts of different areas.

"It could be in tenancy, home ownership, mortgage foreclosure prevention, fair housing issues, home maintenance, home affordability," says Sokolowski. "There was a lot of studying and grinding the books to pass that certification."

HUD certified groups are required to earn that certification by the year 2020.

But counselors with Catholic Charities felt it was important to do so now 

"We wanted to be on the front lines [and] remain the front runners in providing quality, home counseling services," says Sokolowski.

According to the Department of Housing, consumers working with a HUD counseling agent, such as Catholic Charities, have better credit, more savings and fewer foreclosures than similar non-counseled customers.

To date, Catholic Charities has helped over 450 families successfully purchase a home in the city of Elmira alone. Their counselors also serve residents in the rest of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins and Tioga Counties. 

If you or someone you know may be interested in Housing Counseling Services, the First Time Home Buyer Program or any of the other housing-related services Catholic Charities offers, you can find more information here