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Housing initiative launched

Observer Staff

1/24/2005 12:00:00 AM

"Dreams to Reality...Choices for Native American Families" was the theme for a Dec. 14 ceremony that celebrated affordable homeownership opportunities for several Saginaw Chippewa families.

The Tribal members purchased or refinanced homes on the Isabella Reservation with financing provided by Independent Bank by participating in Fannie Mae's Native American Conventional Lending Initiative. Fannie Mae is the nation's largest source of financing for home mortgages.

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Audrey Falcon, Mt. Pleasant Mayor Matthew Showalter, as well as local housing partners including representatives from Independent Bank, PMI Mortgage Insurance Co, and Fannie Mae participated in a traditional ceremony that welcomed several Tribal members into their homes. Those members included Clinton Pelcher, Alexis Pelcher, Jeanette Bolar, Bobby Starkey and Andrew Steele.

"For Tribal families to see the dreams of homeownership turn to reality right on our reservation, it is very special," stated Falcon. "The opportunity that exists for Tribal members to move back to our reservation and have choices in financing their dreams is why we honor these families in a traditional way."

Showalter echoed those sentiments.

"It's gratifying to see more Native Americans obtain the dream of affordable home- ownership," he remarked. "We need to continue to work diligently with Tribal leaders and the public and private sectors to provide Tribal communities with the tools needed to create new housing opportunities."

Fannie Mae's initiative gives residents living on the Isabella Reservation greater access to affordable mortgage financing. Through this Native American initiative, Fannie Mae is expanding homeownership opportunities by offering to purchase from approved lenders, conventional mortgages obtained by families purchasing or refinancing homes on Tribal land.

By offering low down payment mortgages with flexible underwriting standards, qualified borrowers -who are Saginaw Chippewa Tribal members-can buy a home with a down payment as low as $5000 from the borrower's own funds. The initiative also offers mortgages with down payments as low as 1 percent from the borrower's funds and 2 percent from a gift or grant from a nonprofit organization. This mortgage is available for the purchase of a new home or the purchase and rehabilitation of an existing home.

The NACLI mortgage requires home-buyer education, which will be provided by the Saginaw Chippewa Housing Department. Independent Bank will originate the mortgage loans and Fannie Mae will purchase the eligible loans originated under this initiative. PMI Mortgage Insurance Co. will ensure the loans for those families that purchase or refinance a home with less than a 20 percent down payment.

"It is a great partnership," said Independent Bank President and CEO Willliam "Brad" Kessel. "Our experienced loan officers are truly honored that they are able to assist Tribal members, whose dream is to live on the reservation, with the financing of a new home or refinancing of their mortgage into a more affordable payment."

During the ceremony, Rita Hillman, director of fannie Mae's Michigan Partnership Office, announced a $100,000 Community Development Finanacial Insitution's deposit in Independent Bank's Mt. Pleasant office. The funds will be used to enhance lending to underserved populations an communities, as well as to provide a full-range of financial services to the Tribe.

"Fannie Mae's efforts to advance Native American homeownership opportunities through its Community Lending Initiative is part of the company's American Dream Commitment goal to tackle America's toughest housing problems and increase homeownership-to bring more capital to Indian Country."