NACA's New Look - Kicks 2014 off Right with Gala and Congressional Visit

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
NACA – the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America held their American Dream Gala in Washington, DC at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill. And it was spectacular. For those of us who are accustomed to seeing their NACA counselors in the signatory Gold Tees with the Shark on it, seeing them elegantly dressed, coifed, and styled would have come as a pleasant shock. And NACA's valiant founder/leader, Bruce Marks donned a tux for the occasion – which was Black Tie all the way. It was indeed an evening of fun, frolic, merriment, dining, dancing, entertainment, with a side dish of serious.

Michael Eric Dyson & Bruce Marks - Bishop David G. Evans across the table at NACA 2014 DC  Gala
Per NACA founder, Bruce Marks: “We come together to celebrate the hundreds of thousands homeowners and homebuyers, who through NACA, have been able to realize and keep alive the dream of affordable homeownership. These extraordinary accomplishments would not have been possible without the active participation of our members, partners and supporters. During the gala we will be announcing the American Dream Events for 2014 as well as our new initiatives and campaigns for economic justice.”
Needless to say NACA has a great deal to celebrate – having hit the ground running in 2008, when Bear Stearns was set to get a bail out from the government – under former President Bush – millions of Americans were losing their homes as a result of mortgage backed securities, and predatory lending practices on the part of the banks. It was Marks who first coined the phrase “Main Street, not Wall Street!” And it was NACA who, armed with thousands of counselors, fanned out across the nation to save homes – on the one hand – and help others purchase for the first time with zero down payment, zero closing costs; mortgage payments one per cent below prime rates. Those who have been the beneficiary of their hard work flew in from all over the country to celebrate with them.
Setting a record of saving nearly a million homes from foreclosure; helping under water mortgages be restructured and therefore more affordable for hundreds of thousands of families; going after predatory lenders; bringing recalcitrant banks to their knees so that they could in turn reorient their policies to better help the families they victimized – and most importantly – helping thousands of families become first time home owners in this economy – there's a lot to be proud of.
Author, academician, radio personality Michael Eric Dyson, served as official host of the event and kept the content-loaded program moving smoothly. NACA their staff, for having kept faithful to the NACA credo of service. They celebrated banks, such as Wells Fargo, that had been former enemies, but were now instrumental in making mortgages more affordable and people friendly.
Bank of America and CitiGroup, who have been their financial partners since their inception were given credit for their role in providing the more than $25 Billion dollars to NACA to underwrite mortgages. Marks also announced that to offset the new rules set down by Congress, that CitiGroup and Bank of America would be picking up the tab on MAP (Mortgage Assistance Program) fees that are usually imposed on first time homebuyers who receive 100% financing via NACA's unique comprehensive mortgage program. “From this point forward, you no longer have to pay the additional fees. They've got you covered,” he quipped enthusiastically.


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For more than two decades NACA has served America, making the dream of home ownership a reality. From humble beginnings in Boston, MA, the organization, which began by trying to help African American union members obtain equality in home ownership, has expanded to over one million members nationwide.
NACA, which was founded by Bruce Marks, has redefined the way lending is done in America. He revealed at the gala that they would be taking on the Student Loan scams, which have served to cause erstwhile homeowners credit ratings problems. People who earnestly pursued higher educations to lead to a better lifestyle, find themselves burdened and hounded by student loans that should have been amortized decades ago. These have served to hold them back, not only from home ownership, but from obtaining decent jobs, as well. And you can rest assured that once NACA focuses on a challenge, it will be resolved and eradicated.
Another innovation announced by Marks was that of changing the means by which applicants are qualified for mortgages. Consideration for those who have been sustaining higher rents than what most mortgages are will also be taken into account. Per Marks, “If the person is able to carry high monthly rents, he can definitely carry a mortgage, which is often much less than rental amounts. So we should be closing many more mortgages this year.”
Marks announced an additional $30 billion dollars in mortgage funds is being made available to NACA, which means they are now looking to close at least 600 mortgages per month! With that in mind, those seeking to become first time home buyers, and want to take advantage of the best mortgage in the country, should be prepared have their dreams of home ownership come true with NACA as they expand their operations.  For the record, NACA mortgages are not based on your income or credit rating.  The primary rule, however, is that you cannot currently own or be part owner of  a home or real estate; and NACA does not deal with commercial properties.
Did I mention that this is my favorite non-profit activist organization? No? Well, let me state for the record that they are, and I've been a NACA advocate because they put people first – not platitudes, political expediency – people. The great thing is at the end of the process you have tangible proof – you are either a home owner or your home has been saved from the auction block. Now, there are clearly developers, banks and other greed oriented entities that would love to see NACA fade away. But it is clear that their methods work – regardless. And if something works, that's what you use. It would be great if we could get our leading Civil Rights Organizations to coordinate with NACA in making decent affordable housing a right, not a privilege - and work in concert with them in assisting their members in obtaining the dream of home ownership.  It should be a "no brainer" - when the goal is the greater good of people who have been routinely and systematically deprived for eons - don't know why it hasn't dawned on some one to make it happen.  Hmmm....
As I stated earlier, the Gala was celebration and fun, with a side of "serious."  Marks appointed his right hand foreclosure prevention diva,  Pam Brooks - the architect of their signature Home Save Foreclosure Prevention Program – as the lead person to travel across the country to decimate, once and for all, illegal foreclosures throughout the US. 
L-R: Bruce Marks, /CEO NACA, Pam Brooks Foreclosure Prevention Expert, Ditra Russell, NACA's COO
Unfortunately NACA is not in all states yet – there is no NACA in my home state of Oklahoma, though they clearly need them – but NACA is nationwide. For those who don't have a NACA affiliate in your city, you might want to contact them to help set one up. Or it may be necessary to travel to a neighboring state. Of course if you're interested in upcoming free NACA workshops you can log on to www.naca.com and register on line to participate.
While NACA has been instrumental in providing affordable mortgages on a one on one basis, the need to establish a much broader based program has always been a part of their goal. However, the means by which that could be attained has only recently come about within the past few months. The highlight of the evening came via Bishop David Evans of Bethany Baptist Church, in Lindenwold, NJ, who is partnering with NACA to bring decent affordable neighborhoods to distressed areas throughout the United States. Evans who is channeling funds of over $320 million, proudly announced the inauguration of a comprehensive program, in which a total of 32 cities. The plan is to start with eight (8) cities -  including Chester, PA, Philadelphia, PA, Camden, NJ, Baltimore, MD, among others. Homes in the most blighted areas would either be renovated, or developed from the ground up. A mjor part of the plan is participation from target area constituent/participants some of whom would receive training in skilled trades - electrical, plumbing, masonry, carpentry, landscaping, wiring, design, contracting, etc. In turn, they will be employed by the faith based consortium in the rebuilding process (more detail about this in an upcoming article), thus resolving systemic, long term employment and financial woes that have plagued many communities.  Additionally,  through the development of training programs, and the fostering of  community, educational and transportation hubs, essential to community building and sustainability, neighborhoods will begin to grow and thrive. (I will be giving more information about this as the plans continue to solidify.)
Third from Left, Bishop David G. Evans who announced NACA partnership; second from Left, Dr. LaVerne Adams

Much to the delight of the guests, graphics of armed tanks spewing ammunition, heralding Bruce Marks' new “Shock and Awe” NACA initiative. Twenty NACA counselors marched onto the stage with NACA briefcases, dressed in battle fatigues, to signify their readiness to wage war against predatory lenders, foreclosure scams, recalcitrant banks, and homeownership redlining.
The Gala was NACA's kick off their “Annual Congressional Meeting Week” in DC. On January 14th and 15th, NACA members and counselors, donned the signature NACA Gold Tee shirts, and went door to door to meet with members – or their Staff. The issue was the preservation and continuation of Affordable Housing. With few exceptions, all 435 members – Democrat and Republican – apparently were relatively receptive and interacted cooperatively with these enthusiastic constituents. Months went into the planning for these congressional meeting, taking care, where possible, to ensure that participants had the opportunity to interface with congressional representatives from their own district to the extent possible.
In conducting exit interviews with some of the counselors, Allyson Schwartz, Congressional Representative from Philadelphia, garnered particularly high praise for her ongoing dedication to home affordability. Per Debra Wright, Mortgage Counselor in NACA's Philadelphia Office*. “This has always been her thing. She has been involved over the years in working to keep Philadelphia homes in reach for Philadelphia's working class. I've had the pleasure of working with her from time to time and have always found her open. I know we'll be getting a great deal of support from her – especially since we have to close at least 15 mortgages per week. That's a lot of opportunities for Philadelphians.”
Allyson Schwartz - Congress
 When I asked about the level of participation on the part of Congressman Chaka Fattah, who is African American, and serves a large portion of constituents in Philadelphia needing affordable housing, the response was not as positive.  NACA staff apparently met with some hostility from his office.  However, they were still cautiously optimistic that as the Congressman becomes more acquainted with NACA's work and mission,  in the future, they would see more support from his camp. 

Chaka Fattah - Congress

*NOTE: Philly NACA serves Camden, Cherry Hill, and other surrounding areas as well. Next NACA Workshop in Philadelphia is at Penn Treaty Park Place; Date: 02/01/2014; Time: 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM; 1341 North Delaware Avenue; Philadelphia, PA 19125 Phone: 215.531.5221

One of the main reasons for the Congressional visitation was to inform each congressmember about the new mortgage rules that took effect on January 10, 2014, created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). While the new mortgage rules are supposed to be a way to prevent predatory lending - a noble cause - the unintended hardship the new rules will place on working Americans looking to purchase a home at affordable rates, are a major concern.   As with the side effect placed on parental loans for college students (PLUS Loans), the new rules penalize more than help first time homebuyers, by requiring them to have huge down payments. This will almost certainly leave affordability in the hands of speculators, investors, and developers, as opposed to low and moderate income home buyers - the kind of buyer NACA is trying to help..

NACA founder and CEO Bruce Marks stated: “You’re going to see it become almost impossible for many working people who don’t have a big down payment to get a mortgage.”
The tragedy is that most of the rules instigated by Congress are done by individuals or institutions that have little to no understanding or real concern about the plight or challenges families face in obtaining decent affordable homes.  In many instances, bankers, who are more concerned about bank business than they are about the issues concerning home ownership, are part of the formulation of these rules – most of which are little better than so-called predatory or subprime lending programs.
Per Darwin Munroe, manager of NACA's Newark/New York office, “We were very well received; and with one exception, had a great deal of cooperation and consideration from each of the congressional representatives we interfaced with.”
While many think the winter months are down times for real estate and home buying, for NACA home ownership is a year round activity. Anyone interested in attending, participating in or volunteering for upcoming NACA programs or activities can log on to www.naca.com, type in your zip code to see when and where they will be in the upcoming months.**
**NOTE: There is no NACA office in New York City – perhaps, now that we've got a new mayor, a new Borough President in Brooklyn, a new Public Advocate, and new City Council Representatives, New Yorkers will no longer be short changed or deprived of having their own NACA affiliate, instead of having to go to Newark, or wait for an event to take place in one of the five boroughs. It's rather embarrassing when you realize that all states surrounding New York City have their own NACA affiliates, but after several years of trying, there is still none in the Apple.   They are located in Newark, NJ at Military Park (Robert Treat Hotel Office Towers - 15th Fl) and can be reached by calling 973.679.2601.  
That said, NACA is poised to help some 500,000 or more families become home owners in 2014. You could and should be one of them.  Are you ready? If not, they'll help you. Don't sit and wait, take the opportunity now – 2014 is the year you own your own home.  Now say "THANK YOU, NACA!!"
Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson
www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com/ECLECTICALLY BLACK NEWS

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