Skip to main content

Boosting Native lending

SEATTLE - Two financing ventures aimed at increasing lending to American
Indians have gotten their starts in the Northwest.

One is a coalition of Native housing groups and Washington Mutual Bank,
based in Seattle, to increase homeownership for Northwest tribes.

The other is a venture, based in Bellevue, Wash., but targeted nationwide,
to increase the overall Native lending, including but not limited to
homeownership, done by KeyBank. Both ventures were announced in the second
half of 2004.

Washington Mutual is a top five home loan lender to Indian country,
according to data it filed to the federal government last year. Its 2003
mortgage lending to Natives was more than $500 million, based on the
Federal Financial Institution Examination Council's annual HMDA (Home
Mortgage Disclosure Act) survey.

KeyBank, based in Cleveland, is a top 100 Indian mortgage lender according
to HMDA data. It made $16.5 million in home loans to Natives in 2003.
However, it has also done much larger amounts of non-housing loans to
tribes, such as construction and gaming loans, and trust services.

WaMu is partnering with Native groups, including the Northwest Indian
Housing Association (NWIHA) and the National American Indian Housing
Council (NAIHC) to increase Native shares of programs such as the
Department of Housing and Urban Development section 184 guaranteed Indian
mortgages and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Community
Development Initiative.

WaMu has given $75,000 to NWIHA as matching money for a potential grant
from USDA. First Vice President Beth Castro administers WaMu's Native
programs. Other groups involved include the Federal Home Loan Bank of
Seattle, the Oregon and Washington state housing agencies, and the
non-profit Common Ground.

In December, NWIHA and NAIHC offered a program in Clackamas, Ore. to
instruct Native trainers to administer a homeownership counseling course to
tribal members. The course, "Pathways Home", designed with Native people in
mind, teaches them about managing credit, savings and budgets in order to
qualify for mortgages.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

In Bellevue, Mike Lettig is heading KeyBank's national Native banking
strategy, while Steve Barker has been named vice president, western manager
of Native American Financial Services. An eastern manager is also in the

KeyBank's total credit commitments in Indian country are $414 million,
serving 45 tribes or Native corporations. The bank noted that 305 tribes
live in KeyBank's lending areas.

The $86 billion asset KeyBank is targeting individuals, businesses and
tribes as part of an integrated strategy. "For business, Key will deliver
loans and letters of credit, equipment leasing, treasury and asset
management services, loan sales, and syndication and depository accounts.
For individuals and communities, these include retail banking, wealth
management and trust services, financing options for education, financial
education and home ownership solutions. For governments, Key will provide
financial solutions for infrastructure, governmental and social services,
obligation bonds and other debt instruments."

The bank said it was launching the effort "to deliver its full breadth of
financial products and services to a significant but underserved market
segment." It also pointed to its "understanding of - and respect for -
tribal laws, governmental infrastructure and Native cultures."

As examples of its current undertakings in Indian country, KeyBank pointed
to deals with the Mescalero Apache Tribe of New Mexico, the Asa'carsarmiut
Tribe of Alaska, the Colville Tribal Nation of Washington, the Mohegan
Tribal Gaming Authority of Connecticut, the Oneida Indian Nation of New
York (owner of Four Directions Media, Inc., publisher of Indian Country
Today), the Salt River-Maricopa Indian Community of Arizona and the St.
Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York.

The bank made a loan to help replace Casino Apache in Mescalero, N.M. with
a new hotel/casino/convention center, set to open this year. It also
provided a $2 million construction loan to build 10 new single-family homes
in Mountain Village, Alaska, home of the Asa'carsarmiut.

It has helped the Colville Nation, a client since 1996, with a cash
management, credit and investment solution for the tribe. For the Mohegan
gaming effort, it has been a part of the casino loan syndicate and has made
interest rate swaps for it and co-managed its debt transactions.

For the Oneida of New York, Key is part of a syndicate that delivers cash
management, leasing and credit to several of the nation's enterprises. At
Salt River, a unit of the bank is managing tribal trust accounts.

And the bank is delivering cash management and other services to the St.
Regis Mohawks, including letters of credit to several tribal enterprises.