Thursday, April 28, 2011

El Sueño Americano--The American Dream

Way back before getting tangled in the mortgage biz, I had a great summer job with the U.S. Census Bureau. My title? "Non-Response Follow-Up Enumerator." (Best job title ever!)

I was assigned to Hispanic neighborhoods in Aurora, Illinois, to complete census forms for households that hadn't responded to the Census mailing. I was a young, white, upper middle class kid from the Chicago suburbs who spoke not a lick of Spanish. But it didn't matter.

At house after house, I was invited in and offered a cool drink to ward off the hot summer sunshine. I was treated as an honored guest, which gave me the confidence I needed to ask the tough questions on those long Census forms.

With the children in the household translating, I learned about their lives (birthdays, countries of origin), but also about their homes. Number of bedrooms. Age of the house. Mortgage payments. Utility costs. The works.

What the forms didn't ask, but became clear to me as a guest at those kitchen tables, was the pride these homeowners had in their homes. It was palpable. I remember thinking that they had a far better understanding of the American Dream than I did.

A recent poll points to that dream becoming more illusive for the Hispanic population. More than 1 in 3 Hispanic homeowners worry about losing their home in the next year. And since minority groups tend to have 2/3rds of their savings tied up in home equity, this could mean less money for education, retirement, and healthcare.

It's never been more important to reach out to the Hispanic population, in their own language. MortgageKeeper is doing its part, now translating its 20+ service category, 6,000+ agency database into Spanish. Financial institutions, foreclosure counseling services, and others are recognizing this need and throwing more funding and support behind the Hispanic population.

No one can deny that the American Dream of homeownership has taken a beating--especially among Hispanics and other minorities. But this poll revealed another interesting statistic: 40% of those questioned believe the Dream can be achieved without owning a home.

Do you think that the American Dream requires homeownership? Tell us what you think.




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