Drive is launched to boost homeownership among local blacks, Latinos

Program includes ads, education, hot line

October 24, 2004|By Kathleen Cullinan | Kathleen Cullinan,SUN STAFF

Baltimore real estate leaders launched a campaign Thursday to help more low- and middle-income minorities gain a larger share of the region's real estate boom.

The outreach is aimed at black and Latino home shoppers, who real estate experts say have not become homeowners at the same pace as others during recent years.

The ownership rate among Baltimore's blacks and Latinos in 2000 was about 50 percent while the rate for whites was more than 75 percent, U.S. Census figures show.

The home-buying campaign is intended to educate potential homeowners and guide them through the sometimes daunting process of house shopping, organizers said. It also aims to undermine myths about what it takes to get a home loan, they said.

Some people erroneously think they need perfect credit or a 20 percent minimum down payment to obtain home loans, said Craig Nickerson, a vice president at Freddie Mac.

Some loans require less than a 3 percent down payment, Nickerson said, although they often carry higher interest rates.

Rather than be pushed from the city by the rising cost of real estate, said Rod Gaines, vice president of Chase Home Finance, minorities should continue to be encouraged to share in the appreciation of home values.

"As housing prices rise, they can benefit from that" by being homeowners themselves, Nickerson said. "That's what it's all about."

Home prices have increased by double digits in metropolitan Baltimore area over the past few years because of increased demand and extraordinarily low mortgage interest rates. Most experts doubt that values can continue to rise at that pace, but few economists expect home prices to fall.

Margaret Griggs came from Randallstown to learn how the new Baltimore initiative might benefit her nephew, a potential homebuyer who has no credit after living with his mother and having all their bills set up in her name.

Buying a home is "something he wants to do," said Griggs, 58. The homeownership presentation was "informing," she said, and its resources could help her nephew buy a home.

"It's exciting," said Alvenus Curbeam, 47, who decided two years ago to buy a home and who wants to learn more about financing options. Curbeam said she planned to call the campaign's hot line for counseling.

The program is sponsored by mortgage giant Freddie Mac and other real estate and community leaders.

A Freddie Mac spokeswoman said the campaign will be expanded throughout the country. Baltimore is the first city where the program is being offered.

The campaign, called "Homeownership. Let the Truth Move You," will include advertising, educational events and the hot line in English and Spanish, organizers said.

Information: 866-787-8847.

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