On Monday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced the launch of Mortgage Translations, an effort to equip housing and mortgage professionals with resources for borrowers with limited English proficiency (LEP).
The hub initially includes mortgage paperwork in Spanish—including the Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA)—but will be built out to include other languages, such as Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog, over the next two years. According to FHFA, a glossary and other informative materials are planned, as well, and the agency is creating a call center; developing a disclosure in five languages to supplement the URLA; and forming a language access working group, to give constituents a voice.
Access to credit has loosened in the recovery, but barriers continue to exist, predominantly for those for whom English is not their first language. According to the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), 35 percent of the Asian American/Pacific Islander community are LEP, and AAPI homeownership is lagging the national rate—and, although English proficiency is high among Hispanics, 56 percent believe it is “difficult” to get a mortgage, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) reports.
With the initiative, FHFA and the GSEs aim to foster greater knowledge of the lending process, as well as open up opportunities for these segments and others.
“FHFA is proud to collaborate with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and so many others on this important initiative to help address language barriers that impede access to mortgage credit,” said Janell Byrd-Chichester, chief of staff at FHFA, in a statement. “The Mortgage Translations clearinghouse is one part of a [multi-year plan] and includes a number of meaningful resources to help mortgage industry professionals reach a broader range of borrowers.”
“My parents lived in San Francisco for over 70 years,” says John Wong, co-founder of AREAA. “They came to the United States when there were few, if any, opportunities for them to learn English. As a child, I translated. I have been a real estate agent for over 38 years, and have worked with thousands of clients who did not speak English. As an adult, I translated—I improvised a translator because there was no uniformity in how real estate and mortgage terms are translated. With the FHFA’s Mortgage Translator, now there is uniformity in how terms are applied. It’s about time.”