Mabuhay! Wansui! Banzai! Manse! Van Tue!
Spring is upon us! We have just returned from very successful meetings in Washington, D.C. accompanied by many of our pan Asian American partners, such as the Chinese American Institute for Empowerment, the Burmese American Institute for Corporate Responsibility and the Cambodian-led Victoria House Corporation.
As a result of our successful meeting with the Acting Administrator for FHFA, Ed DeMarco, we are now certified to purchase, rehab and sell foreclosed properties (REOs) to low/moderate income families and returning veterans throughout California.
During this Year of the Snake, we expect to work closely with the Obama and Governor Brown administrations, as well as the Republican Party, to further empower our nation’s growing and increasingly diverse Asian American population.
When I was a young girl, there were less than two million Asian Americans in our entire nation; today there are almost twenty-one million. I am proud of our growth and even prouder of our attainments, but far more must be done, far more. See, for example, our op ed urging President Obama to further empower the Asian American community (Asian Journal, “How President Obama Can Ensure Justice for Asian Americans,” 1/15/13).
The National Asian American Coalition, during the week of March 4th, met with leading administration officials to discuss the creation of the Dignity Mortgage and the promotion of creative mortgage products by financial institutions that will provide homeownership opportunities for one million additional low/moderate income homeowners and returning veterans annually, or five million new homeowners over the next five years.
The Dignity Mortgage allows families with 10% down, even if they have low credit scores, to be eligible for 30-year fixed rate mortgages without mortgage insurance so long as the families are part of a mandated financial literacy program. (See American Banker, “How to End the Homeownership Crisis,” 10/25/12).
Both the Acting Administrator of Federal Housing Financial Agency (FHFA), Ed DeMarco, and the Comptroller of the Currency, Tom Curry, at our meetings with them committed to bringing all the banks together to discuss the Dignity Mortgage and other mortgages that will substantially increase homeownership among Asian Americans and other underserved communities. It will also help stimulate our economy, despite the sequester, through the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs related to homeownership.
To further this potential, the senior staff of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has informed us that the Dignity Mortgage is a qualified mortgage.
At our meeting with the senior officials of Freddie Mac, the NAAC was also given a major stamp of approval for our increasingly successful REO program. We will be given priority over investors in the purchase of REOs for rehab and resale to low/moderate income families throughout California.
As stated in our editorial, “Asian Americans Could Be As Important As Jewish Americans In Future Presidential Elections,” written by the Chinese American Institute for Empowerment and the NAAC, 75% of a growing Asian American voting population made it possible for President Obama to be elected President. As the editorial sets forth, the President should be the first American President to fully recognize Asian American achievements that will benefit and empower all Asian Americans, including new immigrants such as refugees from Cambodia and Burma. During our March D.C. visit, we discussed this with key corporate and congressional leaders.
Our early January editorial urged President Obama to appoint Asian Americans from every sub-ethnic group to federal judicial positions. We are pleased that the President has taken the first step by appointing our nation’s first Korean and Vietnamese American federal judges. But, we have also urged the President to appoint the first Asian American to the US Supreme Court in our nation’s 223 year history and to appoint more Asian Americans to key cabinet positions.
During our D.C. meetings, we met with the Census Bureau Director and urged him to quickly rectify the gross undercount of Asian Americans. We discussed the reality that due to undercounting there are now twenty-one million Asian Americans in our nation.
Over the next few weeks, we will be meeting with many corporate leaders to discuss the importance of more Asian Americans as CEOs and as members of Corporate Boards. (Only 2% of Board members are Asian American and only a handful are Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino or Cambodian.)
Lastly, we have criticized Attorney General Eric Holder’s $335 million settlement with Bank of America/Countrywide on their predatory lending practices. We have done so because the settlement deliberately excluded Asian Americans. We are urging the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to rectify this exclusionary and discriminatory AG decision and add $150 million in relief to Asian Americans.
The New Independent Foreclosure Review Settlement Could Create Opportunities for Four Million Homeowners, Including Over $5 Billion for Financial Literacy, Cash for Keys and Creative Loan Modifications
In 2011, the Federal Reserve and the Comptroller of the Currency made an ill-fated decision to put the fate of Asian Americans and other homeowners in the hands of so-called independent consultants. The settlement was designed to help 4.3 million homeowners in distress. The NAAC was one of the few national organizations that from the outset opposed the cumbersome structure of the settlement and the grossly inadequate notification requirements. (See our Wall Street Journal comments, “Large Numbers of Borrowers Really Did Suffer Harm,” 1/7/13).
As a result of meetings with the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Governor Sarah Raskin and Undersecretary of the Treasury Mary Miller, plus our Homeowner in Distress conference in San Diego in mid-December 2012 (attended by 350 homeowners and the federal regulators), the entire failing program was thrown out.
Instead, a new program has been instituted that could benefit the vast majority of the 4.3 million homeowners eligible. This includes $3.7 billion in cash, and $5.7 billion in other benefits, such as improved home counseling, financial literacy and exit strategies that avoid foreclosures, such as “cash for keys.”
We are also seeking, from the independent consultants, who received $2 billion and failed to help even one homeowner, a contribution of $1 billion for homeowner relief. This includes an “eviction fund” designed to provide effective relocation relief.
At our March 7th meeting with the highest ranking Democratic member of the Housing and Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters, we received much support for these efforts. And, we are planning an April meeting with our nation’s strongest consumer advocate, US Senator Elizabeth Warren. (She is on the Senate Banking Committee and the architect of President Obama’s recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.)
The vast majority of potential California homeowners are unable to purchase homes due to arbitrary bank credit standards and/or large investors purchasing, often sight unseen, large blocks of foreclosed properties for purely speculative purposes.
The NAAC is now the largest non-profit in California that is purchasing, after careful site inspections, on an individual basis, foreclosed homes in virtually every area in California. We do so without investor funding. Because of the low cost of our funds, we are able to complete quality rehabs and sell to low/moderate income first time homebuyers rather than the highest bidder. And, we give a special preference, even if it is a low bid, to returning veterans.
We presently have low-cost lines of credit from eleven financial institutions that will enable us to purchase a minimum of ten and possibly twenty REOs per month (18 in March). We have secured the full cooperation and support of FHFA, Freddie Mac and National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST).
Once the NAAC is able to purchase more properties in specific neighborhoods, we will begin a program in cooperation with neighbors, local non-profits and local governments to fully stabilize and then revitalize neighborhoods that have been particularly hard hit by the housing crisis. The Dignity Mortgage will also assist in this revitalization.
With additional legal staff, the NAAC now has three attorneys working with our D.C. and California staff to focus on key issues affecting the Asian American and other minority communities. This includes our special partnership with the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies.
Recently, our attorneys won a major case against one of the largest utilities in America, So Cal Edison. The California Public Utilities Commission cut their multi-billion proposed rate increase in half, therefore saving consumers more than $2 billion. The Commission, consistent with President Obama’s philosophy, questioned excessive compensation.
A similar case that could save consumers $1 billion or more is pending against the Sempra companies (Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas and Electric). And we are currently working on modifying PG&E’s proposed $5 billion rate increase.
Our legal staff is also deeply involved in the issues of pension reforms and curbing executive compensation through legal strategies that could save ratepayers billions of dollars. As part of this effort, we are also raising issues relating to effective consumer education and outreach, particularly as it affects Asian Americans with language barriers. Since we began our efforts, telecommunications and energy companies are focusing increasingly on outreach to often ignored Asian American sub-ethnic groups, such as Burmese, Cambodian and Hmong Americans. (And, virtually all have outreach in Tagalog—Filipino.)
In addition, our legal team is intervening in a variety of cases before the California Insurance Commissioner to promote subsidized low cost auto insurance and is also urging Fortune 500 corporations to maximize the use of multiethnic language strategies, particularly among underserved communities, such as the Hmong, Cambodian and Burmese communities.
On a change to relating to our 21st century communications front, our legal team is assisting us in efforts to maximize internet access for the Asian American community, particularly where they are new immigrants or have language barriers. Our goal is for America to be first in the world and replace Japan and Korea as the leading high speed internet sources for Asians.
10th Anniversary Conference: October 18th in San Diego
The NAAC will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary as an advocate for all Asian American communities across the nation. The celebration will occur where we were born and raised, San Diego, on Friday, October 18th. It is expected that more than 1,000 Asian American and community leaders will be in attendance as well as three to four dozen corporations. Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Raskin has already confirmed as one of the major keynote speakers and we will keep you updated on our event by our “Save the Date” flyer.
In conclusion, our staff continues to make twenty-one million Asian Americans, and our hundred million allies in the Black and Latino communities, our priority. We aspire to be even more successful in 2013 than we have been in the past.