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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Loan Program Launched To Help Hispanics Buy Homes


January 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. All rights reserved. 

Joel Garcia went to the McKeesport campus of Penn State University Friday with one goal in mind -- to line up a loan so he could purchase a new home.

Though Garcia wasn't successful -- he ran out of time -- he did take home three loan applications and is optimistic he'll fulfill his goal and be in a new home by spring.

When Garcia, 35, of Mount Oliver, moved to Western Pennsylvania from San Diego 10 months ago, he was determined to buy a home within a year.

Garcia, a minister at the nondenominational Lion of Judah church on Brownsville Road, was among a dozen or so people at Penn State McKeesport to participate in the launch of a $15 million loan program designed to help Hispanics in the Pittsburgh area buy homes.

The local program, which will provide the pool of money for three years, is part of a 10-year, $2 trillion national program operated by Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association, called the American Dream Commitment. The national program is geared to increase homeownership among minorities, immigrants and female heads of households.

The local program is being coordinated among the Fannie Mae, Countrywide Home Loans, Penn State McKeesport, the Hispanic/Latino Center Inc. and the local chapter of ACORN, or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the country's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families.

Countrywide, based in California with a local office in Ross, will process the loans; Fannie Mae will purchase the loans; the Hispanic/Latino Center will provide information about home ownership and education to prospective homeowners; ACORN will provide consumer credit counseling; and Penn State McKeesport will offer educational programs to participants.

Present for Friday's launch of the loan program were U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Swissvale; Howard Slaughter Jr., director of Fannie Mae's Pittsburgh Partnership Office; Curtiss Porter, executive officer of Penn State McKeesport; and Eugene Matta, executive director of the Hispanic/Latino Center.

People of Hispanic heritage comprise less than 1 percent of the population of Allegheny County, about 10,500 people, according to the 2000 federal census.

The home loan program is being established at the right time because the number of Hispanics moving to southwestern Pennsylvania is rising, said Connie Ruhl of Bethel Park, head of the board of the Hispanic/Latino Center.

"We're a little ahead of the curve in getting this thing in place so that we are ready as the population grows," said Ruhl, 63..

Ruhl, born Consuelo Garcia in Etna, said many of the Hispanics of her generation whose parents moved to Pittsburgh to work in the steel mills in the early 20th century moved away from the area as the steel industry declined. But now a new generation is moving here and they will need help to become homeowners, just as previous generations of immigrants needed assistance, she said.

Most of the immigrants, including Garcia, are Mexican, though some recent Hispanic immigrants are from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Ruhl said.

Garcia, who is married with three sons, worked with Ruhl and others to bring people to yesterday's event. He said education is an important stop on the home-ownership trail because it can provide increased earning power to help him and others buy a home.

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