Denver: In California and some other areas where increasing immigration continues to be a “wedge” issue that can get the dust up in the summer’s heat, over the last several weeks articles in both San Diego and Los Angeles tried to focus on ACORN and Citigroup’s breakthrough program to provide home loans for families with ITIN (individual tax identification number) numbers rather than social security numbers. This is a critical important program in stabilizing families and providing affordable housing, so why is there an effort to create controversy, when both ACORN and Citigroup should expect applause?
Let’s look at this point by point:
1. The Citigroup-ACORN Home Loan program helps hard-working immigrant families achieve the American dream of homeownership.
The ITIN home mortgage pilot program gives people who work hard, pay taxes, and earn a decent income, the opportunity to take the money they have been paying on rent and instead buy a home for their family.
2. The main difference between the Citigroup/ACORN ITIN pilot and other mortgage programs is that the bank verifies income through an employee tax identification number, issued by the Internal Revenue Service, instead of through a social security number.
In many families, more than one person is working and contributing to the household income. In deciding if a family has the income to qualify for a mortgage, Citibank will consider all income in a household, as long as they are reporting that income to the Internal Revenue Service and paying income taxes on it, regardless of where each member of the family is on the long and winding road to citizenship.
3. The Citigroup-ACORN ITIN program combats predatory lending.
Until recently, immigrant families who wanted to achieve the American Dream of Homeownership were forced to go to loan sharks and predatory lenders for financing, no matter how good their income or credit history. Predatory lenders often provide unsuspecting immigrant families with “stated income” loans, carrying high fees and rates, which are often unaffordable. Now, with the ACORN-Citigroup pilot, hard working immigrants with stable income and good credit can get prime quality mortgages at good market rates from a reputable lender.
4. Everything about the Citigroup-ACORN ITIN program is completely legal.
In the United States it is perfectly legal for non-citizens, (and non-U.S. companies) to own property. People can buy things, including houses, regardless of their immigration status. A clerk at the grocery store doesn’t ask for a green card when you buy food. What Citibank and ACORN Housing check carefully, in this and all loan programs is that there is a stable source of family income and good credit that can be documented. Citibank will not approve someone for a mortgage under the ITIN pilot unless they are convinced that the person can pay the loan back.
People buying homes through the ITIN program have been paying federal income taxes to Uncle Sam for years.
5. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a part of the US Government, is encouraging banks to start ITIN loan programs. During the past year, dozens of community banks have started to make these loans throughout the United States.
Looking at the whole thing, what could possibly be the objection? The ACORN-Citigroup ITIN program is good, innovative public and commercial policy that builds strong communities.
Makes one thing the only real objection is plain and simple bigotry.