Over the next few months, the Department of Commerce will release reports about the health of the nation’s economy. Already, unofficial estimates report that decreasing unemployment and rising home prices are signs of a healthy economy. Another good sign is that the national home foreclosure rate is at an all-time low. This means that a plurality of American homeowners are keeping up with their loan payments. However, there are other indications that this is not the case for all homeowners.
In states like California, many Latino homeowners are struggling. For example, housing counselors from UnidosUS Affiliate Montebello Housing and Development Corporation in Montebello, California reported that in the last year, the majority of families they served requested help making their mortgage payments. In recent years, changes to mortgage relief programs and in the housing market have affected the resources available to struggling homeowners. These changes include the ways companies collecting loan payments communicate with homeowners, the kind of help for which homeowners can apply, rising home prices, and interest rate resets. These changes affect how homeowners apply for assistance, eligibility requirements for assistance, and mortgage relief options.
During this year’s UnidosUS Annual Conference in Washington, DC, UnidosUS economic policy staff and Affiliates met with federal regulators to discuss issues central to the economic stability of the Latino community, including access to loan payment collection practices that help families sustain affordable homeownership.
Affiliates representing communities from California, Oregon, Illinois, and Florida joined UnidosUS to speak to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the three prudential bank regulators: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
During the meetings, Affiliates raised concerns about their communities’ ability to access safe and affordable financial products and about the home loan servicing practices of financial companies that are regulated and supervised by these agencies.
Gabriela Roman, Executive Director of UnidosUS Affiliate Spanish Coalition for Housing in Chicago, Illinois, attended the meetings. Ms. Roman and her team of housing counselors help Latino families strengthen their credit, create and follow a budget, prepare to buy their first home, and help homeowners keep their home if they get behind on their mortgage payments.
“We met with teams from each of the regulators to discuss our concerns about mortgage loan servicing but also shared details with them about some of the practices we use that have proven successful. It was important for the regulators to hear what is happening on the ground including common trends we see across different regions. Although we had already been working with representatives from each of the regulatory agencies, the opportunity to personally meet with them and exchange ideas strengthens our relationships back home. Most importantly, opportunities like this help us effectively met the many needs of the people we serve,” Roman said.
UnidosUS and our Affiliates will continue to work with regulators to collaboratively advocate for fair economic policies for Latinos and communities of color, including consistent mortgage servicing practices and making sure homeownership opportunities remain attainable and sustainable.