A little-known free service to help potential home buyers get their credit and records in order and apply for home loans marks its 17th year with a renewed emphasis on helping to stabilize inner-city neighborhoods.
The Home Loan Counseling Center, a private nonprofit organization, is funded by 18 savings and loan institutions mandated under the federal Community Reinvestment Acts of the 1970s. Banks and real estate agents had been abandoning these areas, and residents had suffered the effects of redlining, said Gloria Ancira, the center’s director.
“Nobody speaks up for these areas,” Ancira said. “We need to have a lot of representation. We need seminars and services. And we need a lot of education.”
The center’s main office (3982 S. Figueroa St.) and the Lincoln Heights office (163 S. Avenue 24) last year served 6,277 people, helping the vast majority of them to straighten out their credit and to prevent defaults and foreclosures. Eleven of the center’s clients last year were approved for $1.3 million in home loans.
The biggest problem for first-time home buyers is bad credit, said Ancira, who works with a staff of four. People often do not realize the impact that paying their bills on time has on their chances of securing a home loan, she said.
Maria and Jose Leon bought their house in 1989 but needed help in refinancing because their payments were higher than their office-cleaning jobs could support. They received help and now pay $300 less per month.
“For us it was difficult because we didn’t know anything about the process,” said Maria Leon. “They helped us with the transactions and now it’s a little better for us.”
Ancira sees the service she provides as helping neighborhoods and the families that live there because once parents learn good credit habits, they will pass that on to their children. The opposite--bad credit habits--also get passed down and can create a domino effect in neighborhoods, she said.
She often finds herself speaking up for applicants who have been turned down for not having green cards or who have a few blemishes on their credit report.
She sets up seminars in neighborhoods and schools to inform people of the process of buying a house: the down payment, closing costs and supplemental tax that arrives 12 to 18 months later.
“The mission is to encourage home ownership and retention by providing counseling and educational seminars,” she said. “Anywhere that you see a lot of renting going on, the neighborhood deteriorates. If we want to preserve the neighborhoods, we have to do this.”
Information: (213) 224-8011.