“Virtual Counselor Network” Transforms Professional Housing Counseling for Low-to-Moderate Income Communities in San Diego

  “Virtual Counselor Network” Transforms Professional Housing Counseling for
  Low-to-Moderate Income Communities in San Diego and the Inland Empire

  Developed by the Housing Opportunities Collaborative and supported by Citi
 Community Development, new network provides access to 1-on-1 counseling and
                            technical assistance.

Business Wire

SAN DIEGO -- March 18, 2013

A network of strategically located stand-alone computer terminals stretching
150 miles from San Diego to San Bernardino will transform access to
professional housing counseling and other services ranging from foreclosure
prevention to tax preparation and credit counseling through an innovative
Virtual Counselor Network (VCN).

The 10-terminal VCN will cover San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino
counties. It will be operated by the San-Diego based Housing Opportunities
Collaborative (HOC) with the support of a $200,000 grant from Citi Community
Development. The computer terminals will be placed in a variety of easily
accessible locations in San Diego and across the Inland Empire.

The HOC’s goal in establishing the network is to increase access to a diverse
array of community services and resources for all populations, especially low
income and underserved individuals and families in San Diego and the Inland
Empire. Aligned with HOC’s commitment is the development of the technology and
infrastructure to connect low to moderate income and rural communities to a
Virtual Counselor at participating agencies via the Internet. Additional
resources will be leveraged among the network of agencies to offer a virtual
“one-stop” array of services, eliminating the need to travel to multiple
locations.

“Citi’s support for the innovative Virtual Counselor Network provides San
Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino County residents with access to technology
and specialized counseling services that are often not widely accessible
through traditional counseling centers, via technology or in their
communities,” said Bob Annibale, Citi’s Global Head of Community Development.
“Ensuring universal access, but particularly for low income and underserved
communities, to housing, tax and credit counseling through the Virtual
Counselor Network and the Housing Opportunities Collaborative will empower
individuals with valuable advice and information in multiple languages,
including English and Spanish, on available services that can be critical when
planning and making household financial decisions.”

According to DataQuick, current research shows that 8,000 homeowners across
the affected area have received foreclosure notices in recent months, while
16.2 percent are unemployed and another 16 percent live below the poverty line
as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau - American FactFinder.

"As nonprofit organizations find new ways to use technology to help more
people, I believe this program will empower our local communities and provide
innovative solutions to help meet the diverse needs of residents throughout
the region," said San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria.

“Through our partnership with Citi, we will have the opportunity to utilize
technology to provide timely, relevant and sustainable solutions to problems
facing our communities,” says Housing Opportunities Collaborative President &
Executive Director Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor. "At the same time, we will
achieve a triple bottom line benefit through the VCN by helping more residents
access diverse services faster, minimizing the travel time and lowering the
costs for nonprofit service providers to serve more customers."

Local residents and homeowners can learn more and access the Virtual Counselor
Network now at www.VirtualCounselorNetwork.org.

About the Housing Opportunities Collaborative

The Collaborative is a tax exempt non-profit organization consisting of HUD
approved housing counseling and fair housing agencies, housing related
nonprofits and business organizations, and governmental agencies that support
all aspects of housing rights and responsibilities. The Collaborative serves
as an information clearinghouse by consolidating housing related information
and making it easily accessible to the public and partners. The Collaborative
also acts as a clearinghouse for its partners by conducting outreach events to
educate and provide housing counseling services to the public. The
Collaborative also conducts capacity building workshops and training for its
partners in order to standardize counseling.

About Citi Community Development

Citi Community Development (CCD) is leading Citi’s commitment to achieve
economic empowerment and growth for underserved individuals, families and
communities by expanding access to financial products and services, and
building sustainable business solutions and innovative partnerships. Our focus
areas include: commercial and philanthropic funding; innovative financial
products and services; and collaborations with institutions that expand access
to financial products and services for low-income and underserved communities.
For more information, please visit www.citicommunitydevelopment.com.

Contact:

Press:
Housing Opportunities Collaborative
Appaswamy "Vino" Pajanor, 619-283-2200
pajanor@housingcollaborative.org
or
Press:
Citi
David Roskin, 212-559-4767
david.roskin@citi.com