Friday, June 06, 2008

Mi Casa es Mi Casa: APanameno's Statement



Statement by Aracely Panameño, Director, Latino Affairs
Center for Responsible Lending

June 6, 2008

Over the course of the last several years, subprime lending proliferated and with it so did predatory practices. Affinity marketing and steering worked hand in hand. The slogan of "bad credit, no credit, no problem" led many consumers to fall prey to real estate professionals all along the food chain.

In Prince William County, according to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, during the last three years 50% of subprime loans were sold to Latino families. More than half of all foreclosures in the county are concentrated in low and moderate income neighborhoods within two zip codes: 22191 and 22193 (Woodbridge and Dale City). The majority of those affected are Latino families. The problem is now spreading to other areas in the county as Alt-A and payment option ARMs begin to reset.

There are no resources for families facing foreclosure in Woodbridge or Dale City! The county has one Latina housing counselor in the financial education program ran by the Virginia Cooperative Extension; she is overwhelmed with cases. And, there is only one non-profit organization located in Manassas with one staff person, the executive director. Its network of housing counselors work on a volunteer basis and only two of them are bilingual. Another nonprofit organization, Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV) is also overwhelmed with requests for legal aid involving predatory and/or fraudulent loans and rescue scams cases.

Communities like these exist all over the country. They need help NOW! The very many programs and initiatives to address foreclosures thus far continue to leave consumers at the mercy of lending institutions. While many of the financial institutions that originated these loans have sought protection under the bankruptcy code, the same protection is not afforded to consumers. Most recently, Rep. Masui introduced a deferment bill which Center for Responsible Lending and civil rights organizations support.

The conditions I have described are dire. We need policy makers to stop giving homeowners hope and to give them real solutions that will keep families in their homes, preserve communities, and stabilize the housing market.

In the meantime, community leaders, faith communities, and non-profit organizations will be working to provide information and assistance to families.

Prince William County families, especially Latino families in Woodbridge and Dale City can find information, housing counseling, legal aid, and access to lender/servicer institution responsible for serving most of the mortgages in the area at our clinic:

Mi Casa es Mi Casa Foreclosure Avoidance Clinic, which will take place on Saturday, June 14th, from 8:30-4:30 at Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church in Woodbridge.

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