MReport May 2017

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18 | TH E M R EP O RT COVER STORY Lending at NeighborWorks America, concurs the coopera- tive approach has been beneficial. "The leadership exercised by Wells Fargo and the Wells Fargo Foundation to invest in home- ownership has been tremendous; it has created opportunities for so many families and individuals to achieve their dream of homeown- ership," she said. "By coupling the local nonprofit housing counseling and education provider into the process, it also enables those who are not mortgage-ready today to work with a local advisor on their homeownership journey." According to Ohayon, the majority of LIFT program partici - pants represent low- to moderate- income households that pay an average of only $77 more per month than they did while rent- ing (43 percent actually pay less to own through the program). "Because LIFT invites mort- gage lenders from throughout the market to participate, the program has been able to reach deeper into communities and help more people," adds Rodriguez. Under Ohayon's guidance, the Mortgage Market Outreach team helps put the spirit of these larger Wells Fargo homeownership initiatives into action. Rullah Price, SVP and Community Outreach Director, says the team continues to promote other programs such as Community Conversations, in which they facilitate detailed discussions with key community stakeholders to hear firsthand about important community issues like student lending, access to credit, etc. Also, a 2017 emphasis, virtual home- preservation events will support the bank's HUD-approved nonprofit partners in their direct-connect counseling services. If there's still any doubt about the financial institution's hous - ing affordability focus and commitment, accounting firm CohnReznick recently named Wells Fargo the nation's largest affordable multifamily housing in - vestor. Its Commercial Real Estate group has invested more than $9 billion in low-income housing tax credits during the last five years to help meet the need for more affordable housing options for individuals and families in com - munities across the nation. Trial by Fire I t has been said that adversity does not build character; it reveals it. In 2006, Wells Fargo Home Lending knew it was hiring a very able mortgage professional in Ohayon, but his value to the organi - zation truly came to light when the financial crisis decimated the hous- ing industry the very next year. "At a very important time in our country, Joe stepped in to work collaboratively with govern - ment officials, nonprofits, investors, and other financial institutions to find out-of-the-box solutions and pave the road forward," said Mary Coffin, Head of Customer Excellence at Wells Fargo, who first met Ohayon during his 13 A Class Act F or the biggest purchase of your life, knowing is more than half the battle—a sentiment shared by Joe Ohayon, SVP and Head of State and Local Government Relations at Wells Fargo. "I think consumer education is the cornerstone of sustainable home - ownership," he said. "We continue to support the work of housing counselors across the country. They were absolutely critical in helping Wells Fargo and the industry get through the foreclosure crisis." At the time, Ohayon and Wells Fargo worked in lock-step with housing counselors and other trusted third parties to help people stay in their homes. Home preservation programs became a large part of their relationship with the community. But today, Ohayon's relation - ships with these groups are helping Wells Fargo create something very different. "As things continue to recover now and we pivot from distressed situations toward getting more people into homes, counseling will continue to play a big role," Ohayon said. The largest U.S. mortgage lender, Wells Fargo has developed loan programs to further leverage housing counselors and has even changed the internal business model of its mortgage servicing operation to sup - port counselors in a more seamless way. In second quarter 2016, Wells Fargo announced yourFirstMortgage, features for qualifying customers who complete a homebuyer education course. "We created yourFirstMortgage to help more first-time homebuy - ers and low- to moderate-income families achieve sustainable home- ownership." says Brad Blackwell, EVP, Head of Housing Policy and Homeownership Growth Strategies at Wells Fargo. "This is a simple, straightforward, fully underwritten conventional fixed-rate mortgage that reduces the complexities of other low-down payment loan programs. The program provides flexibilities for qualification including using extended family household income and even lowers out-of-pocket and down pay - ment costs to as little as 3 percent. The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 enabled HUD to authorize public and private housing counseling organizations. A 2013 study involving nearly 75,000 borrowers, nearly a quarter of which participated in NeighborWorks America's homeownership education and counseling programs, found that segment, consisting of both first-time homebuyers and repeat buyers, one-third less likely to become 90 or more days delinquent during the two years after they obtained their loans. "The market has changed dramatically over the years," said Ohayon, who references the Mortgage Bankers Association's report about Q 4 2016 having the lowest rate of new foreclosures started since 1988. "It has significantly improved, but it has been an unbalanced recovery. So we're still intentional about providing a great level of support for those who need it." "Now and always, we're committed to helping customers with an af - fordable, achievable, and sustainable path to homeownership across the country," Ohayon said. Advanced homeownership education and counseling prove fundamental to sustainable homeownership. Ohayon pictured with Loan Administration Manager Melanie Burkett and Executive Assistant Christine Neubauer.

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