"... to assist families to develop assets and increase their quality of life through financial education, homeownership, credit management, savings, and access to low cost capital."

History of The El Paso Affordable Housing

Organization History

The El Paso Affordable Housing was formed in 2001 by 8 El Paso credit unions; GECU, First Light FCU, West Texas CU, El Paso Area Teachers FCU, One Source FCU, El Paso Employees FCU, Mountain Star FCU, and Golden Key FCU as a credit union initiative to improve the economic, social well being, and the quality of life, of members in the community through financial literacy, savings and providing access to low cost capital. EPAH services include: financial education, housing counseling, credit counseling, foreclosure prevention assistance, pre- and post-homeownership education, and information on predatory lender practices, and through its sister organization, El Paso Credit Union Affordable Housing, LLC, provides accessible low-cost program mortgage loans, in partnership with the Housing Authority, HUD, El Paso Empowerment Zone, the City of El Paso, and others. EPAH works closely with other credit unions to develop low cost financial products that will provide low to moderate income families with options to high-cost or predatory loans and wire remittances and are accessible to financially underserved markets.

The Community:

The community the EPAH targets is a population of approximately 800,000. El Paso County has some of the lowest household incomes in the nation, yet it has the highest percentage of sub-prime or high interest home loans. It is also the fifth poorest county in the nation, where only 4% of families have an annual income of more than $100,000 and only 18% of families earn more than $35,000 a year. The average household income is approximately $29,500. Twenty four percent of families and 36% of children live in poverty. Families in El Paso face income, language, cultural or informational barriers in accessing financial education, housing, traditional credit and other low-cost financial services.

El Paso County has one of the lowest per household income in the country, yet it has one of the highest activities in sub-prime home loans in the country. It has 23 conventional financial institutions including credit unions and banks, yet they are outnumbered 7 to 1 by fringe lenders. The County has 51 registered payday lenders many with multiple locations and many others that are not registered with the state, along with 107 licensed signature lenders, many with multiple locations, and an unknown amount of title loan lenders. All these high cost, easily accessed, fringe lenders greatly increase the High Cost of being poor, and erode the ability of low to moderate income families to create wealth and purchase a home.

The EPAH target market is approximately 90% Latino and is the very low to moderate income families within the County of El Paso, Texas, which includes the City of El Paso , City of Socorro , Horizon City , City of Anthony , Fabens, Tornillo, San Elizario and outlying Colonias. These are unincorporated settlements that lack basic water and sewer systems, paved roads, safe and sanitary housing. Texas has the largest number of colonias and the greatest colonia population, which is predominantly Hispanic. Of the proximately 1,500 colonias in the U.S side of the border, 97 percent are in Texas (Sharp, 1998). Our community is home to approximately 140,000 people living in 78 colonias (Profiles of Colonias, THDCA 1998). Most families living in the colonias do not have easy access to any financial institutions or traditional financial services, or access to low cost capital for home loans or consumer loans. Equal Credit - Equal Housing Opportunity

Through extensive grass-roots outreach, comprehensive culturally sensitive financial education, and development of non-traditional financial services and products for access to capital, the EPAH will assist these un-served and underserved community members to avoid predatory high cost lenders, and to access mainstream financial products and obtain a home.

In fact, many of the qualifying standards of the generally accepted underwriting criteria promulgated by the GSE 's preclude loans to Colonia residents. In order to serve this population, innovative, “out of the box,” criteria must be used to overcome these exclusionary guidelines.