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PORTLAND, Ore. – Hacienda Community Credit Union, the first state-chartered credit union in Oregon in 20 years, is growing “explosively,” said Yolanda Karp, CEO of the $909,000, five-month old institution. “We are so happy,” she said laughing, “even though it feels like much of the time we are racing to catch up with the demand.” Since it opened its doors on October 10, 2002, with $750,000 in assets, the credit union has grown to almost $1 million and has made 56 loans worth $330,000 Karp reported. “Ninety-five percent are car loans and five percent are personal, signature loans, for people who needed things like a printer for a business they were starting up,” she said. Karp attributed the credit union’s growth to a combination of knowing the sorts of needs that her members had as well as marketing through word of mouth and the Hispanic media in Portland, which in many cases has given the credit union free coverage or reduced rates on advertising. But the credit union’s growth has been as though it has been catching fire, Karp reported. “With so many of our members, it’s not even about interest rates as much as it is about pride,” Karp said. “Even though they might only have a small part of their car loan left to refinance, they still want to refinance it because they say, `why should I pay a high interest rate? I am not a bad risk’ and they refinance with us,” she said. Hacienda’s 10% for car loans is still relatively high compared to the broader car financing market, but significantly lower than the rates Portland’s Hispanic residents can face from other lenders. One member found that he couldn’t get a used car loan at less than 29%, even though he had paid off a previous used car loan at 30% with the same borrower, Karp explained. The official reason was because he couldn’t prove legal residency in the U.S., but he was here for years and his whole family was here. He came to us and we refinanced the loan, she said. Karp said the member’s experience had shown one of Hacienda’s key benefits, that of being a place where Hispanics can both get shelter from the interest rates dictated by their relatively short credit histories and build the sort of credit history they will need for future borrowing. She used as examples two of her members who, she said, had had car loans that were actually for more than their cars were worth. This put them in a terrible credit position and, to the extent they had late payments on their accounts, meant they were building negative credit history as well. Hacienda refinanced the loans and now the members can build stronger credit histories, she said, and she added that she was grateful to the Portland Teachers Credit Union for providing access to the credit reporting bureaus so the members’ information could be added to their files. “I think they just put down their foot and said if you are going to take ours you have to take hers too,” she said. According to the U.S. census, 118,000 Hispanics live in the three Portland area counties that make up Hacienda’s geographic field of membership, “and that is just the ones they counted,” Karp said, adding that many of these residents don’t have relationships with a financial institution “yet,” she said. But she also pointed out that the community is more stratified than might be readily apparent to those on the outside. On the lowest tier are the Hispanic migrant workers who are so transient following the crops that it made it difficult to offer them financial services, she explained. Next are the immigrant poor who are often supporting themselves and family in their home countries. On the top tier are the Hispanic business owners and other residents who have been here awhile, or may be second generation, she said. Those are some of the people she is trying to reach, hoping to interest them in making deposits in the institution so that Hacienda could become self-sufficient that much faster, she said. “We have a goal to be self-sufficient in three years,” she said, “and that means having a loan portfolio of $2.5 million.” Karp noted that the credit union seemed to be having a good start. “My chief goal right now is getting the word out,” Karp said. “Not enough people know yet that we are here and in business and looking to help,” she said. [email protected]

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