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Latino Families Scramble to Save Homes

Enlace, News Report, Hiram Soto, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: Sep 30, 2007

Traduccin al espaol

OCEANSIDE, Calif. Araceli Flores was so happy to buy a three-bedroom house that she didnt ask many questions about the mortgage.

The person who helped her didnt speak Spanish, so Flores flipped through the contract and signed it without knowing what she was getting into. Now, the only thing she knows is that she is about to lose her property.

Years of work, years of acquiring good credit are in jeopardy, said the 45-year-old factory worker who is trying to renegotiate her mortgage.

Everything Ive achieved is suddenly falling apart.

Latino families have been impacted the most by the wave of high-interest mortgages, the drop in the value of homes, and mortgages that are liberally granted to families that probably shouldnt have bought a home in the first place.

Now a group of Hispanic professionals in real estate, government agencies and non-profit organizations is trying to help Latino families deal with problems too large to face alone.

With volunteers from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Agents at the forefront, this coalition has begun offering clinics in Spanish to provide one-on-one help for families that have problems paying their mortgage. The workshops have been crowded to maximum capacity, with experts analyzing each family on a case-by-case basis and lawyers available to help with any irregularities.

For some, there is still hope to modify their mortgage.

For others its too late, and professionals offer them advice on how to minimize the economic impact of the hard blow of losing a house.

In many cases, families dont have any idea how to begin, said Yamila Ayad, a real estate broker and the person responsible for organizing the clinics.

What we offer them is the opportunity to speak with an expert who tells them where they are, what they can do and what they cant do. And for many, just knowing that lifts a heavy weight off their shoulders.

Owing to a combination of factors, Latinos have been especially impacted by the national credit crisis that has generated fears of a recession.

According to national studies, Latinos are 2.5 times more likely than whites to receive one of the infamous so-called subprime loans, that consist of low interest rates for a limited period of time that are later adjusted to the market.

In addition, they are 2.3 times more likely to receive a high-cost loan, which generally has a higher rate of inflation than the amount they asked to borrow.

On top of this, language barriers, unscrupulous agents and a lack of knowledge about the process contribute to the crisis in the Latino community.

We are seeing families separated, with marriage problems, and people who are ruining their credit, said Ayad. The problem now is where they are going to rent, and who is going to rent to them (with their credit).

Jos Jacinto finds himself in this situation.

He has been fighting for months to stay in his San Diego house. He fell behind in his payments, sold some property in Oaxaca, and ended up paying off $13,000. But then his wife lost her job and now they are behind again. They have four small children.

Jacinto tried to refinance his mortgage to get out of the problem, but houses went down in value and his mortgage wouldnt allow him to refinance for three years. His house is on sale for $70,000 less than what he paid for it.

Now Im just worried about paying for food, electricity, water and saving for when we move to an apartment, he said. Most likely it will be in Tijuana, while I get settled.

Photo by Marcos Gonzlez

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