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WASHINGTON-In comments last week during a panel on mortgage financing, NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar lauded credit unions’ efforts to bring underserved consumers into the fold under the agency’s Access Across America initiative. His remarks were part of the White House’s conference “Blueprint for the American Dream.” Dollar noted that credit unions have been a significant source of mortgage lending and that 2001 was a record year for credit unions, but that they can do even more. “However, before people may obtain a mortgage they first need access. Access to affordable financial services becomes absolutely critical in achieving the goals we are here today to discuss,” he said. “I am pleased to report that America’s credit unions are answering the call in unprecedented numbers to provide much needed access to affordable financial products and services in underserved areas and communities that need it most.” Dollar pointed out that credit unions had added 585 underserved areas with an aggregate population exceeding 33 million new potential members in underserved areas since 2001, and that NCUA facilitated the record expansion by “fostering a regulatory environment rooted in both safety and soundness and earned flexibility.” He also explained that credit unions have already beaten last year’s record numbers for adding underserved areas with 17 million new potential members as of September 30. “Through Access Across America, NCUA encourages and facilitates partnership opportunities for credit unions with a number of governmental and private sector organizations such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, among others,” Dollar emphasized. The chairman was in good company participating in the panel, which included Fannie Mae Senior Vice President for Regulatory Policy Arne Christenson, Mortgage Bankers Association of America President-Elect John Courson, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka President Andrew Jetter, and Freddie Mac Executive Vice President of the Single Family Division Paul Peterson. Stephen McMillin, the Office of Management and Budget’s associate director for General Government Programs moderated the panel. The summit was organized by President George W. Bush to bring together hundreds of public and private housing-related experts to help close America’s “homeownership gap. President Bush and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Mel Martinez invited Dollar to serve on the panel. Dollar spoke to both the president and Martinez conveying NCUA’s commitment to the homeownership initiative. “The President’s commitment to this effort is evident in his convening this conference, and it is indicative of both of the challenges facing Americans seeking this American dream of homeownership and his commitment to tear down some of the barriers to achieving that dream,” Dollar commented. HUD also released a report, Economic Benefits of Increasing Minority Homeownership, outlining the president’s goal of adding 5.5 million minorities to the growing list of American homeowners, which will stimulate an additional $256 billion in the housing sector. Minority families continue to significantly lag behind in the nation’s overall homeownership rate as less than half of African-American and Hispanic families own their own home while 74.3% of non-Hispanic whites are homeowners. [email protected]

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