Having a home of your own has always been key to achieving the American dream. But often, in the Latino community, the notion of buying a home remains just that–a faraway dream.
Taking the leap into the complicated process of applying for a mortgage can be intimidating for any potential homeowner, but it is especially so for native Spanish-speakers, noted Evelyn Branch, supervisor of the Home Ownership and Foreclosure Prevention Training program at the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services of New Britain, Inc.
Another reason Latinos struggle with home ownership, said Branch, is “many Hispanics lack what we call ‘credit readiness’ for a loan. They may have a credit score, but it’s not high enough.” A third reason she cited is the lack of a sound family budget which is required in order to create savings for a down payment.
Simultaneously, new governmental requirements for potential home buyers that came into effect in the aftermath of the real estate bubble crisis also has prevented Latinos from being approved for loans, according to a story first reported in Voxxi.com. (See http://www.voxxi.com/latinos-struggle-for-homeownership/)
“Latinos are one of those sectors mostly affected by these new regulations because of their non-traditional ways of earning income and lack of credit history in many cases,” said Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) in the Voxxi.com report.
Avenues to Assistance
So, there are barriers and stumbling blocks, but there are many avenues to explore and opportunities to obtain assistance in the state of Connecticut.
The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) is an important independent, quasi-state agency whose mission is to alleviate the shortage of housing for low-and moderate-income families and individuals in the state.
To help facilitate home ownership in the Latino community, CHFA President and Executive Director Eric Chatman indicated his agency promotes the value of home ownership by advertising CHFA’s programs—in newspapers and on Telemundo and Univision, especially during the month of June, which is Home Ownership Month.
One way CHFA promotes homeownership is through its Downpayment Assistance Loan Program, which is targeted to those who cannot make a downpayment on a home. Last year, 817 borrowers (56.5%t of 2012 borrowers) obtained downpayment assistance, according to CHFA’s 2012 annual report. Of those borrowers, 19% were Latinos.
An important method for readying Latinos for home ownership, said Chatman, is pre-purchase counseling in both English and Spanish through CHFA’s many partner community agencies.
For the past year and a half, as their first step to buying a home, Jennifer Lopez and Jomara Lopez of New Britain have been working with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Britain (a CHFA partner counseling agency).
They attended free eight-hour monthly home buyer education classes, where they listened to speakers such as lawyers and bank representatives. They participated in individual counseling sessions during which they were instructed about getting out of debt and building up a credit rating.
Now, they are hoping to close on a bank loan and plan to be out of their apartment and into their own home by next summer.
“This program has been so helpful,” said Jomara, 32, who was born in Puerto Rico. “We didn’t know there was this type of step-by-step help.”
Holding fast to the American dream, national real estate surveys such as those conducted by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, indicate Hispanics, like other minorities, are eager to become homeowners. They value the stability of home ownership and how it can improve the quality of their lives. Plus, it is a symbol of success and a smart economic decision.
CHFA’s Chatman notes 38 percent of the 549 CHFA loans in 2012 went to minority borrowers. Of that amount, 15.5% of CHFA mortgages went to Hispanic borrowers. In 2011, that percentage was 13.3%.
“There is an upswing in the number of Hispanics in New Britain who have an interest in purchasing a home this year,” Branch confirmed. “Word is getting around about these programs and the assistance we provide.”