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Strength in numbers doesn't translate to Native mortgages

WASHINGTON - Strength in numbers doesn't mean better access to local lenders for Native Americans, an Indian Country Today analysis of nationwide mortgage lending has found.

An examination of 2002 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act filings of institutions based in the four states where American Indians and Alaska Natives are most populous - Alaska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and South Dakota - finds Native share of lending to be vastly below their representation in the population.

In these four states, where Natives approach or exceed 10 percent of the population, Indians and Alaska Natives got just 1.4 percent of the mortgages made by state-based institutions, according to a survey of more than 7,700 lenders the government requires to report each year. In New Mexico and South Dakota, Native volume was less than 1 percent. The 801,192 Indians and Alaska or Hawaiian Natives in these four states comprise 11.9 percent of the four-state total of 6,753,622, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates as of July 1, 2002.

The overall national story was much the same for Natives, as they received, according to HMDA, $10 billion out of a total of $3.2 trillion in home finance last year. That's about a third of a percent of the total, well below the Census Bureau estimate of Native share of 0.9 percent of the population.

In Alaska, where according to the Bureau 19 percent of the population of 643,786 is Native alone or in combination with another race, just 2.8 percent of loans at the 11 state-based financial institutions that reported their mortgage lending under HMDA went to Natives - $58.8 million out of $2.1 billion.

The actual percentage must be somewhat higher, since 28 percent of all applicants declined to disclose their race or ethnicity on their applications last year, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, the agency that collects HMDA data. But even allowing for additional Native loans to those not identifying themselves as Natives, the percentage in Alaska would not reach double figures.

The sort of the data also did not bring up Alaska volumes for out-of-state based lenders.

The largest lender to Natives based in Alaska in 2002 was Residential Mortgage of Anchorage, at $17.2 million of a total volume of $634 million. Right behind it was Alaska USA Mortgage Co. at $17.1 million (of $581 million) and third was First National Bank of Alaska at $10.8 million out of $278 million.

In Oklahoma, where 11 percent of 3,493,714 residents are Native according to the Bureau, just 1.5 percent of mortgages made by local lenders - $114.7 million out of $7.8 billion - went to Natives.

One hundred Oklahoma-based institutions reported making mortgages to American Indians and Alaska Natives last year. Bank of Oklahoma, Tulsa, reported the most, $29.2 million out of total loan volume of $1.4 billion. That was more than twice the amount made by number two Bancfirst, Oklahoma City - $11.2 million out of $210 million, or 5.3 percent of its total.

In New Mexico, 29 state-based lenders reported making mortgages to Indians or Alaska Natives. The $17.2 million aggregate Native volume is a little more than half of one percent. Natives represent 11 percent of the population, according to the Bureau.

Charter Bank of Albuquerque was the top lender to Indians among New Mexico-based institutions, at $4 million of a total of $952 million. It was followed by Los Alamos National Bank, Los Alamos, with $2.6 million of $483 million.

According to the Census Bureau, 9.2 percent of South Dakota 761,063 residents are Native. Eighteen state-based institutions reported loans to Natives last year, for $5.5 million in mortgages out of a total of $974 million. That's 0.6 percent of the total.

In 2000 for the first time, the Bureau separated Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders from the "Asian" category, Analysis of this shows that Hawaii has replaced Alaska as the state with the most Native people. Its Native Hawaiians, Indians and Alaska Natives comprise 23.8 percent of the state's 1,244,898 residents as of July 1, 2002.

However, it is impossible to calculate Native Hawaiian share of local mortgage volume, since the HMDA report still lists them with Asians.

Ten Hawaii-based lenders reported making $9.2 million in mortgages to American Indians or Alaska Natives last year, HMDA data show. Nearly half their volume, $1.7 billion, went to Asians or Pacific Islanders, which would include Native Hawaiians but also includes Hawaii's large Asian population.