Hood, Dorsa, Eakes Address Attendees
(March 26, 2008 – Durham, NC) Credit union professionals from around the country spent two days learning how to safely expand their mortgage lending programs despite the current economic climate at a recent two-day workshop: Mortgage Lending Strategies in Uncertain Times, organized by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation).
Participants heard from a number of mortgage lending experts, including Martin Eakes, CEO of Self Help CU (Durham, NC); Bob Dorsa, CEO of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association (ACUMA), and Phil Greer, Vice-President at State Employees’ Credit Union (Raleigh, NC). Rodney Hood, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Vice-Chairman, was also on hand to speak on behalf of the credit union regulatory agency.
Other session topics during the workshop included housing counseling, loan servicing and underwriting, and secondary markets.
Martin Eakes, a nationally-renowned fair-lending advocate and recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation Fellowship – also known as a “genius grant” – emphasized the need for credit unions to make mortgage loans by starting with existing members. According to Eakes, “there simply is no other choice; credit unions have to make more mortgage loans” in order to survive financially and to fulfill the credit union mission.
| From left to right: Self-Help CU President, Martin Eakes; Federation Mortgage Director, Brenda Weaver; NCUA Vice-Chairman, Rodney Hood; and Self-Help CU CFO and Federation Vice-Chairman, Randy Chambers.
In the 1980’s Eakes founded Self-Help CU, which has provided low-income members over $5 billion in affordable financing through direct lending and through its own affordable loan secondary market.
Phil Greer, Vice President at State Employees’ CU (Raleigh, NC) agreed with Eakes on how to treat the foreclosure problem. “What’s most important is for credit unions to just do the right thing,” he said.
State Employees’ CU has been especially active in developing innovative affordable loan programs, which won national recognition with a Herb Wegner Institutional Award. One such program provides low-interest loans to teachers relocating to North Carolina. Another of their loan programs promotes environmentally sustainable “green” construction.
NCUA Vice Chairman Rodney Hood encouraged attendees to do whatever they could to provide safe, affordable mortgages to their members. Hood emphasized partnerships, such as working with Federal Home Loan Bank for assistance in making mortgages and collaborating with groups like NeighborWorks on homeownership counseling.
CDCU Practitioners Provide Real-life Case Studies
The two-day event also featured a special practitioner workshop on foreclosure prevention, led by Rita L. Haynes, CEO of Faith Community United CU (Cleveland, OH) and Gloria McClendon, Branch Manager and Loan Officer at the same $10 million CDCU.
Cleveland is a city that has seen some of the highest foreclosure rates in the United States, and Faith Community United CU is doing all it can to help its low-income members.
During her presentation Haynes emphasized the importance of partnerships with other credit unions and community organizations to provide members with specialized education and referrals they need. “Faith Community [United CU] has been inundated with people coming to us for assistance, and working with local organizations allows us to help more people,” said Haynes.
McClendon encouraged credit unions to be creative in pioneering new products to help members with their mortgages, even if indirectly. The “Wheels Loan” program at Faith Community United CU, for example, has helped many CDCU members refinance their car payments, allowing them to free-up additional cash for mortgage payments, thereby preventing foreclosures. “By being creative with their lending products CDCUs can make a real difference in their members’ lives,” McClendon explained.
In addition to their affordable mortgage products, Faith Community United CU, was also an innovator of payday loan alternatives. The CDCU has made over $5 million in Grace Loans since they pioneered the program in 1991, helping thousands of members avoid high-cost predatory lenders.
Stephanie Struble of Opportunities CU (Burlington, VT), another CDCU with a strong lending program, spoke about the value of direct contact with their members. “At Opportunities [CU] we don’t say no, we say when,” said Struble, emphasizing that “the credit union works with members and the community to help move bad debt into good debt.”
Credit Unions Uniquely Positioned to Help Americans
In addition to the CDCUs featured at the Federation’s workshop, there are many instances of credit unions stepping up to meet their members’ needs.
In the closing session, Bob Dorsa of ACUMA focused on the future of the mortgage markets and explained that mortgages are essential to the success of the credit union movement. “Helping people affected by this mortgage crisis may be one of the greatest opportunities for credit unions as a movement,” he said, emphasizing that now was the time for these institutions to show the credit union difference.
Brenda Weaver, Director of the Federation’s CDCU Mortgage Center, LLC echoed Dorsa’s sentiments, “Community development credit unions, really all credit unions, are uniquely positioned to help people through the mortgage crisis and the current economic turmoil. This workshop was designed to help credit unions learn from each others’ experiences so they can go back and tailor their own mortgage programs to help their members, but also to improve the credit unions bottom line,” she added.
The Federation’s workshop was made possible thanks to the support and assistance of the National Credit Union Foundation and Center for Responsible Lending.
© 2008 National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.