Nothing We Can Do
The reach of Georgia’s Fair Lending Act was shortened considerably when the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency exempted nearly 2,500 national banks from compliance. Comptroller John D. Hawke Jr. reasoned that the federal law that gives national banks the power to determine their interest rates and fees cannot be “obstructed” by state laws or regulation. In other words, banks and other mortgage lenders are pretty much free to charge whatever interest rates and fees they deem profitable.
In the same vein, Household International recently got a pass from Utah’s attorney general. The big mortgage lender had been accused of misrepresenting loan terms, failing to disclose costs and fee information and providing deceptive insurance policy information. When homeowners facing foreclosure complained to the office of the attorney general, they were informed that Household had not violated Utah law, even though “they [were] not engaging in normal business practices.” (Chattanooga Free Time Press, 8/12/03 and Salt Lake Tribune, 10/19/03)
A Reality Check For Police…
Police officers in Chattanooga, TN, participated in a three-day seminar on homelessness, hosted by employees of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. The goal was to educate officers on the realities of homelessness. Participants met with people who were homeless, worked the serving line and spoke with advocates. In the end, officers gained a new perspective on how to approach and help the homeless in their communities. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, 10/28/03)
As of January 1, 2004, Texas-based nonprofit housing developers of low-income and affordable housing will be subjected to stricter guidelines when trying to qualify for property tax exemptions. Nonprofit corporations will have to include on their board of directors at least one low-income individual, one resident of low-income housing and one representative from the neighborhood where the affordable housing is located. (Houston Chronicle, 7/31/03)
Who said that foundations were slow in giving? Some foundation trustees have been in an extremely charitable mood. According to an éxposé by Boston Globe reporters, a number of foundation executives have received outstanding compensation packages, some earning $47,000 a year to work four hours a week. The Paul and Virginia Cabot Charitable Trust even funded the $200,000 wedding of its trustee, Paul Cabot Jr. And two foundations in California handed out personal and home loans to their presidents. (Boston Globe, 10/10/03 and San Francisco Chronicle, 10/14/03)
You Stay, You Pay
Hartford Housing Authority plans to double the rent payments in two of its public housing complexes – from $293 to as much as $659 for a three-bedroom unit. The housing authority is strapped for cash and can’t afford to pay the $971,000 mortgage bill it received from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. Like the Bush administration, they, too, want the poor to foot the bill. (Hartford Courant, 10/28/03)
Good News Dept.
It seems as if collaboration is the order of the day. Nonprofits, foundations, corporations and even public and city officials are working together to achieve one goal: building affordable housing. Several foundations in Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts are investing endowment dollars in Home Funders, a group they created to finance very-low-interest loans for affordable housing developers. Their goal is to raise $26 million to create 1,000 units of affordable housing and leverage 3,000 more over 10 years.Self-Help has extended its partnership with Fannie Mae to secure an additional $2.5 billion in home mortgages for low- and moderate-income families. This comes after the successful completion of a five-year homeownership initiative with Fannie Mae, the Ford Foundation, Bank of America and Chevy Chase Bank, which helped minority households, rural residents, female-headed families and people with blemished credit histories become homeowners. (Boston Globe, 10/21/03 and www.self-help.org, 10/28/03)
Good News Dept., cont.
A study conducted by the Ford Foundation and the University of North Carolina, based on partnerships with Fannie Mae, Self-Help, Bank of America and Chevy Chase, revealed that minorities and low-income families have a strong track record of repaying mortgages. Participating lenders experienced a 0.7 percent foreclosure rate during the first five years of the initiative, which is below the national rate of 1.1 percent. More than 80 percent of the borrowers were never late with a mortgage payment, and 12 percent were never more than 30 days late. (www.self-help.org, 10/28/03)
Not A Good Thing
Parishioners of Garden of Peace Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg, FL, want to open their fellowship hall for the homeless on cold nights. But neighbors and parents are adamantly opposed to the idea, fearing high crime and Elizabeth Smart-like kidnappings. One mother, whose child attends the church’s preschool, believes that placing small children within the same vicinity as the homeless is not a good thing. Maybe she doesn’t know that there are children who are homeless, too. And that’s definitely not a good thing. (St. Petersburg Times, 11/16/03)
Eye On Washington
Congress has agreed to provide additional funding – $1 billion – for the Section 8 program to help finance existing, and possibly new, housing vouchers. Also, the U.S. Department of Commerce has proposed cutting the Market Extension Program budget by 66 percent. The small businesses and manufacturers that participate in the program – and that significantly impact the economies of their communities – may find a reduction in services and an increase in the discounted fees of the consultants provided through MEP. Stay tuned. (City Limits, 12/8/03)
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced its plan to invest $50 million in federal development funds to subsidize 300 affordable housing units near the former World Trade Center site. The apartments will only be for middle-income individuals earning between $50,000 and $85,000. LMDC is the same agency that has consistently
denied applications of many low-income Chinese, Hispanic and African-Americans who were among those seeking a portion of the $280 million in federal housing funding granted by the agency to residents after 9/11. (City Limits, 7/28/03)