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One thousand mortgages third year straight

ROSEMEAD, Calif. ? American Indian borrowers received more than 1,000 mortgages from Countrywide Home Loans for the third year in a row under its fair housing and House America programs, data for the year 2000 is showing.

Countrywide made 1,178 mortgages in 2000 to individuals who described themselves as Native American, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. The company, whose fair lending effort is based here, said those individuals received $132 million in financing for the year (or a little more than $100,000 apiece). Countrywide did not break down reservation versus non-reservation lending, but the paucity of lending on American Indian homelands indicates the vast majority of its volume was not on trust land.

Those 1,178 loans made up 0.6 percent of Countrywide's 2000 volume, lower than the proportion of Indians in the U.S. population but well above most lenders' results.

Countrywide also made 0.6 percent of its loans to Native Americans in 1998 and 1999, the company said. Countrywide has claimed the title of largest lender to minority borrowers in the country for each of those three years. It is committed to making $100 billion of loans to minority and low-to-moderate income borrowers between 2001 and 2005.

For 1999, it extended 1,322 mortgages to Natives, for a total of $145 million in lending. For 1998, when the firm said it was the top lender in the country to American Indians, it made 1,137 loans for $121 million in finance. Three-year totals are 3,647 mortgages, for $398 million in finance.

The numbers are only for "purchase" mortgages, where the borrower is buying a new or existing home. The results do not include refinancing of existing loans, but 2000 was an off year for "refis" due to relatively high interest rates. (2001, in contrast, was a record year for "refis" and all mortgage lending. The 2001 HMDA numbers will be available sometime this summer.)

Nor do they include house rehab loans. The government counted a total of 21,000 Indian applications for refis, and 8,000 for rehabs in 2000, but did not disclose how many of those applications were approved.

For the entire country in 2000, HMDA data showed 24,914 American Indians received "purchase" or non-refi mortgages, a decline of 4.6 percent from 26,123 in 1999. That would give Countrywide a 4.8 percent share of the mortgage market for Natives in the U.S. in 2000.

The company has partnered with the National American Indian Housing Council, and in Montana it has joined the newly formed Montana Native American Lenders Task Force, which is seeking to overcome lending barriers on the state's reservations and to coordinate efforts of lenders and government agencies.

The group has run several home fairs on reservations in the state and is trying to make sure tribes have the legal framework in place to permit mortgages. Terri Sills is Countrywide's representative on the task force.

In Oneida, N.Y., Countrywide has agreed to service (do the paperwork on) mortgages resulting from the home loan program started by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.

The first loan in that program is expected to close shortly. The Nation is guaranteeing the mortgages, to be made by Key Bank and then sold to Fannie Mae, the secondary mortgage agency.