OAKLAND, CALIF.—Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the availability of $5.1 million in grants this week to train additional housing counselors as the number of foreclosures remains high.

Donovan made the announcement in Oakland, Calif., where he was meeting with homeowners and others at a mortgage counseling event. Five major banks and lenders took part in Monday’s event, where roughly 500 homeowners were expected to receive loan modifications and other assistance.

The idea was that the homeowners, who have been working with counselors, could bring their documents to the event and work with their lenders to avoid foreclosure.

The event was an “attempt at a new model” in bringing homeowners and lenders together, said Donovan, head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It’s a change from the traditional routes of requesting a loan modification, which can take months to get resolved.

HUD pushed the loan servicers to have their decision-makers at the event, according to Donovan.

“This secretary is very, very important to this district,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), citing how many in the area have lost their homes and lost their equity.

California accounted for 20 percent of the nation’s foreclosure in August, with 69,413 properties receiving a foreclosure filing, a 3 percent jump from the prior month but a 25 percent drop from August 2009, according to RealtyTrac, which collects foreclosure data.

Nationwide, there were foreclosure filings—default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions—on 338,836 properties in August, a 4 percent increase from the prior month. However, it was 5 percent decline from August 2009, reports RealtyTrac.

As housing leaders try to stem the foreclosure crisis, funding for housing counseling has been increased by 36 percent in this year’s HUD budget.

The funds announced Monday are available to provide training activities designed to improve and standardize the quality of counseling provided by HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, multi-state organizations, and state housing finance agencies. 

Applicants must be public or nonprofit organizations that have tax exempt status under section 501(a) and have at least two years of national experience providing the majority of types of housing counseling training services. They must propose to provide training nationwide. The training program must contain both basic and advanced courses, and include topics such as general counseling, credit and financial literacy, matching clients with loan products, homebuyer education, avoiding delinquency and predatory lending, foreclosure prevention, reverse mortgages, rental housing, and mortgage fraud counseling.

Details are available at www.grants.gov. The deadline is Oct. 29.