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Do 75 million homeowners need their own advocate before Congress and federal agencies on issues such as the mortgage interest tax deduction, retention of low down payment loans, and the start of tougher financing rules next January?
Who knows? But a group of mortgage and real estate industry veterans, joined by leaders of national community development, fair housing and consumer groups, are set to launch an unusual effort – a national nonprofit organization modeled after AARP, the seniors lobby, solely to speak for the home-owning public.
It’s called America’s Homeowner Alliance, and is scheduled to be formally announced within the next two weeks. The mission, according to its sponsors, is to “protect and promote sustainable homeownership for all segments” of the population – from moderate-income renters saving money for a down payment to long-established owners.
Members will be asked to pay annual dues of $20 – AARP’s dues by comparison are $16 – and will receive access to an extensive program of rewards and discounts from more than 1,000 participating companies who offer home-related products and services. They range from Home Depot to Lowe’s, Best Buy, Sears, Verizon, major appliance manufacturers, furniture and housewares stores, and encompass what sponsors say will be more than 1 million products. Members will earn points on every product purchase and be able to redeem them for merchandise, travel or other benefits.
The new group, which will be headquartered in St. Louis, is the brainchild of Phil Bracken, former executive vice president for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and now chief policy officer of government relations for Radian Guaranty Inc., a private mortgage insurer. His specialty as a lender has been financing and promoting affordable homeownership, especially for entry-level buyers, and he has chaired or co-chaired groups such as the Consumer/Lender Roundtable in Washington, D.C. Bracken will serve as chairman of the Alliance. Its president and CEO will be Tino Diaz, who heads a management consulting firm in Florida and is a former chairman and president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.
The group’s directors and advisory board represent a mix of industry and consumer group leaders, including several from Asian, Hispanic and African-American real estate organizations, plus the Consumer Federation of America.
In an interview, Bracken said the Alliance is needed “because no one currently represents homeowners’ interests,” even though trade groups representing realty brokers, lenders and builders take positions on legislative and regulatory issues that often coincide with those interests.