American Indians targeted as part of massive mortgage commitment
SEATTLE ? Tribes will be the beneficiary of some of the massive $375 billion affordable housing and community development commitment just announced by Washington Mutual Bank here. The question is, just how much?
Washington Mutual, the nation's biggest mortgage lender, specifically says its commitment will help 'Native American tribes, tribal organizations, or tribal members to purchase, build or rehabilitate homes on individual or tribal trust lands.'
Beth Castro, vice president, community reinvestment, said no specific target has been set for Native American lending, but she said the thrift is seeking to 'broaden and increase our lending' in Indian country.
The giant savings institution has been active in lending to tribal members in the Northwest and in Oklahoma. It entered partnerships with secondary mortgage agency Freddie Mac, mortgage insurer PMI, and Native-owned mortgage broker First Americans Mortgage in a series of commitments to tribes in Oklahoma. These include the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Citizen Potawatomi tribes, and total some $50 million in commitments.
In the complicated financings, First Americans, of Kansas City, originates the loan for Washington Mutual, which supplies the mortgage money. PMI, based in San Francisco, provides mortgage insurance in case of borrower default, and the loan is then purchased by Freddie Mac, based in Washington, D.C.
Washington Mutual has closed nearly 200 loans to Oklahoma tribal members, Castro said. It also is one of the few lenders to make use of the little-known Federal Housing Administration section 248 American Indian guaranteed mortgage program, closing about 30 of the loans on reservation trust land in the Northwest.
Washington Mutual also has agreed to extend the Department of Housing and Urban Development's section 184 loan. That mortgage can be used for American Indians on and off trust land. No loans have closed so far, and WaMu plans to get its effort moving by adding a construction financing component.
It has made non-governmental mortgages to members of the Tulalip tribe in Washington, and Castro sees an expansion of this to other tribes in a partnership with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac's cousin agency. WaMu also has closed about 25 manufactured housing loans with members of the Port Gamble (Wash.) S'Klallam tribe and would like to expand this program as well.
Castro says WaMu has been active in financial literacy and homebuyer education, as with the Nez Perce tribe of Idaho, and has sponsored the White Mountain Apache tribe of Arizona and the Ute tribe of Utah for more than $1 million in grants from the Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan Bank System.
It also is working with tribes on Individual Development Accounts, to spur savings among tribal members. American Indians would appear to be eligible under all of the WaMu general commitment targets ? 'people of color, residents of low-to-moderate income census tracts, and people whose income is below 80 percent of median income.'
The $375 billion breaks down into four programs: single-family lending, $300 billion; consumer and small business lending, $48 billion; multi-family lending, $25 billion, and community investment and development, $2 billion.
The 10-year commitment commences in 2002. To give some idea of the scope of the new program, it is more than three times as large as the previous one of $120 billion, made in 1998. Washington Mutual made $50 billion in mortgages in 2000, Mortgagestats.com, Washington, D.C., reports and nearly $100 billion if the three firms it has bought or agreed to buy in 2001 are included.
The firm acknowledges that in many cases, extending credit to the underserved, such as Indian country, will involve 'subprime' lending to those with impaired credit. Responding to widespread allegations of predatory lending in the subprime niche, Washington Mutual also has formulated a set of responsible mortgage lending principles.
These include not selling single-premium credit insurance (widely condemned as a predatory practice); capping the fees it will charge at 5 percent unless a higher fee will bring about a lower interest rate, and not engaging in loan-flipping or churning schemes, where unscrupulous lenders refinance a home over and over in order to earn fees.