The biggest obstacles to credit unions launching or growing a housing finance program are lack of staff, concerns about compliance and a lack of leadership from the highest executive levels, according to credit union executives and housing finance consultants.

“Any credit union that wants to start or expand a housing finance program needs to hire or retain the right people, defined as hiring people to find and competitively process and close loans,” wrote Robert Dorsa, president of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association. “This would also include proper training for all, including management of the CU.”

Dorsa acknowledged that in many ways this would be the most obvious requirement but added that in many parts of the country, finding staff qualified in housing finance to work as loan originators or loan officers is becoming increasingly difficult.

“The fact is, this has become a more highly specialized field, and the people who are knowledgeable about it and have the right skills are often too highly priced for credit unions to get,” explained Alissa Sykes, director of mortgage lending at Sunmark Federal Credit Union, a $374 million 45,000-member credit union headquartered in Latham, N. Y., a community near Albany.

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