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Obama Win Could Help Local Efforts, Local Housing Advocates Say

Nov. 6, 2008

By TERRI JO RYAN
Waco Tribune Herald

The Democratic tidal wave in Congress with Sen. Barack Obama riding the crest as president-elect is good news for a shaken housing industry, some local observers say.

Baylor University social work assistant professor Jon Singletary said an Obama administration may have the clout to enact reforms to prevent some of the financial system's abuses that lead to the current crisis.

"I am certainly hopeful about things to come," said Singletary, addressing the 15th anniversary awards banquet for NeighborWorks Waco on Wednesday. "But I also know the power of the players involved. And the actions of the business sector are not always in the interests of low-income Americans."

Singletary decried the predatory lending practices of some in the mortgage industry that took advantage of "unsophisticated borrowers" buying overpriced property.

President-elect Obama went to bed early Wednesday "dreaming of a victorious future," Singletary added. "But he woke up today to the reality of the financial nightmare left by his predecessors in office."

Roy Nash, executive director of NeighborWorks Waco, said organizations like it -- which promote homeownership as a way for working families to bootstrap themselves out of generational poverty -- should be recognized for the success of their model. The public-private partnership emphasizes pre-purchase financial literacy training and "continued hand-holding after the sale," he said.

NeighborWorks Waco's foreclosure prevention classes, for example, have kept such filings for its clients down to less than one-fifth of 1 percent of loans, versus a national average that is three times higher, he said.

NeighborWorks Waco, 922 Franklin Ave. -- which started life in 1993 on the fourth floor of Waco's City Hall as Neighborhood Housing Services -- has helped more than 1,500 local families become first-time homebuyers since its founding.

NeighborWorks America is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization created by Congress to provide financial support, technical assistance and training for community-based revitalization efforts through a network of more than 230 groups. The 50-state coalition seeks to create healthy communities through the work of businesspeople, government officials and other partners such as banks, insurance companies, retailers and foundations, as well as thousands of community organizers.

Reprinted with permission