National and local economic trends continue to have a dramatic impact on the demand for our services, particularly employment and foreclosure prevention. Wealth accumulation for African Americans and Hispanics has been set back at least two decades as a result of the most recent recession, according to recent data released by The Pew Research Center. Minority and low-income residents are facing significant economic barriers. Therefore, financial literacy programs are vital to helping build, grow and retain wealth for these families. The Urban League works to help clients grow and protect wealth by providing financial education, foreclosure prevention, home ownership counseling and small business education.
Home ownership is an important part of family and community economic stability. According to the City of Fort Wayne Community and Economic Development Department, the rate of home ownership in Fort Wayne is below the national average. The national average is 67% and Fort Wayne’s current rate is 60%. When compared to other areas of the City, the south and southeast side, near west and near north sides have much lower rates. There is sufficient decent, safe and affordable housing in Fort Wayne, so the goal of increasing home ownership among the targeted population is achievable.
A recent state report indicated that 12.5% of Allen County mortgages were subprime loans, thus, more likely to end in foreclosure. It was also determined that subprime lenders were serving a disproportionate number of the Indiana’s minority borrowers. Mortgages applied for by African American borrowers in Indiana were 1.39 times more likely to be subprime than white applicants. Additionally, between 5% and 13% of our state’s foreclosures involve mortgage fraud. The primary causes of Indiana’s foreclosure crisis include: job losses; high number of first-time homebuyers; loans with high LTV ratios; the state’s slow rate of home price appreciation; and certain lending practices.
Consequently, we are seeing an increase in clients needing foreclosure counseling throughout Allen County. Additionally, we are a designated provider for the Hardest Hit Fund, a US Treasury funded program that focuses on providing foreclosure counseling to the unemployed. We serve the following counties: Adams, Allen, Dekalb, Elkhart, Huntington, Kosckiusko, Lagrange, Marshall, Noble, St. Joseph, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley.
Residents are also not accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit that could provide much needed economic stability to struggling families. It is estimated that $6 million goes unclaimed by Allen County residents who are eligible but not using the tax credit. This credit needs to be accessed and invested by low-income taxpayers, and could be used to restore credit, or grow assets by providing a down payment on a home. The Fort Wayne Urban League partners with other non profits through collaborative efforts like Bank on Fort Wayne and Money Smart Week.