The slow recovery of the housing market is hampering the ability of small businesses to obtain the credit they need to grow or even maintain current operations, according to a new study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB). Most entrepreneurs own real estate and often use it as collateral for business loans. But the housing slump has depressed property values, making it harder to obtain home equity loans at a time when more businesses are seeking credit, says the NFIB. In 2011, 57 percent of small businesses sought credit from a financial institution — a 9-percent increase from the previous year — but barely 29 percent obtained it. The study also found that most of the loans and credit lines went to larger, more established firms. Smaller companies and start-ups largely were left in the cold. For entrepreneurs in need of credit to expand or get past a cash-flow crunch, there are still options: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Microloan Program helps small businesses obtain short-term loans. The maximum loan amount is $50,000, but the average microloan is about $13,000. Suppliers and vendors also often work out special payment terms with businesses, especially if there is a long-standing relationship. Peer-to-peer lending also is becoming a popular option. With this type of financing, a loan proposal is submitted to a group of investors who decide individually whether to fund the loan. A loan can be made by one or more investors.