Deja Vu Again?Kate Crawfordminority, homeownership, ethnicity, HUD Have you ever felt like you did not belong, because you could not understand a movie, book, lecture, sport or language? Was that discomfort amplified because your surroundings were unfamiliar? Imagine feeling that way all the time, as an immigrant in this country, with people constantly muttering under their breaths to learn the language and act like the rest of us. If you could step back in time to the 1880s, you would see this country was a destination for countless immigrants who risked their lives on treacherous ocean voyages and lived in sub-poverty conditions, just to come to this great land and start a better life. We are all products of this migration--my descendants came from Ireland, and I am sure that if you examine your family tree, you will find immigrants from Europe, Asia or Africa. If you discussed it with your older family members, they would probably tell you how difficult it was in the beginning. Remember, those of us who are now second- or third-generation Americans were once the outsiders that were not given a fair shake. Consequently, everything we have today was earned through long hours of hard work. Our families were all once discriminated against because they did not belong. What didn't they belong to--some false societal structure that those who came before us had started? The United States of America is supposed to be a land of opportunity for everyone. My descendants overcame persecution, just as their Eastern European, Italian and Jewish counterparts did. It takes effort to integrate into this country, but history has been proven that it can be done. As we fast forward to the present, we recently celebrated National Homeownership Month and, even though President Goerge W. Bush recently announced that homeownership is at an all time high, minority homeowners are still lagging behind. As an industry, all mortgage professionals need to remember that we were once the minority, to step up to the plate and help these folks purchase homes. There are great, new affordable housing programs being offered through government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) and the FHA. I implore you to take the time to learn these new products and put people in homes. Furthermore, your loan origination system most likely has a Spanish module, and both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and GSEs have issued brochures printed in various languages. HUD, in particular, has introduced a five-part plan to tear down the "barriers to homeownership," as they call it. I had the privilege of being invited to hear HUD Secretary Mel Martinez speak on this subject at a recent town meeting in Charlotte, N.C. His five-part plan is to overcome several of the major obstacles to minority homeownership in this country, including: 1. The lack of capital for downpayment and closing costs; 2. The lack of access to credit and poor credit history; 3. The confusion surrounding the home buying process; 4. Regulatory burdens for construction and zoning, which drive up the cost of building; and 5. Housing discrimination and the not-in-my-backyard mindset. At one point in the meeting, someone began speaking in Spanish, and I immediately began to feel uncomfortable, mainly because I had to wear interpretation headphones, making me understand even further how minorities must feel in everyday life. Mortgage Brokers originate more than 65 percent of this nation's mortgages, and we are doing a fine job of serving the emerging minority market. However, we all need to be able to look past a potential homeowner's creed, gender and ethnicity, and put them into houses at a good rate. Remember the old adage: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you can't abide by that, then why are you in such a customer service-based business? Our country was built on a variety of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. We need to embrace all of them, much as our families grew to be. We are a culture of people who are constantly being forced to prove themselves, and for those of us that have been in this country for long enough to be accepted, let's give everyone else a chance. Kate Crawford is the National Association of Mortgage Brokers FHA/VA/Affordable Housing Chair and President-Elect for the North Carolina Association of Mortgage Professionals. She nay be reached by phone at (336) 586-0070, fax at (336) 586-0024 or e-mail [email protected].
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