Photo courtesy of HousingWire
Photo courtesy of HousingWire

Amid an onslaught of bad press stemming from a phony-account scandal, Wells Fargo recently received an award acknowledging their efforts to diversify homeownership.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) presented Wells Fargo Home Lending with their inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Award on Thursday, Nov. 17 during its third annual Summit on Diversity and Inclusion at the Capital Hilton in Northwest.

Franklin Codel, executive vice president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said that sustainable homeownership stands near and dear to his heart.

“The last couple of weeks hasn’t been good for Wells Fargo, we have to acknowledge that,” Codel said. “It means a lot to be recognized in this way. We do it because it’s the right thing to do for our community and customers.

“All of you know that homeownership is very important to individuals, communities and the country,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that homeownership is still the way to build wealth for families.”

The award was welcome news for the company, which has been sued by customers and former employees alike for a massive scam that saw bank employees create millions of fake bank accounts for unwitting customers in order to hit sales goals.

But the scandal hasn’t affected the success of the Wells Fargo Home Lending program, which Codel attributes to going into communities and dispelling myths about what it takes to own a home.

“The myths that are out there are very, very real,” he said. “Very often we find that the belief is that you have to have perfect credit, a 20 percent down payment and a much higher income.”

Because of such prevailing myths, there are entire populations across the country specifically in majority minority neighborhoods where homeownership doesn’t exist.

“If the family experience is not grounded in homeownership, then people from that family will need assistance,” Codel said.

According to the MBA, Wells Fargo Home Lending has developed and sustained broad comprehensive strategies over the past several years to make sustainable homeownership possible for low- to moderate-income and minority customers.

Since 2012, Wells Fargo provided nearly $302 million in downpayment assistance and program support through LIFT programs educating thousands of potential homeowners, revitalizing communities while helping to create homeowners.

In May, the company launched yourFirst Mortgage, a new low-down payment home-loan program that reduces the complexity and barriers of payment options.

Also this year, Wells Fargo Home Lending received USDA recognition as a “Champion of Rural Housing.”

“We’ve held events in marketplaces such as Baltimore, Los Angeles, where we go out in communities and share with them how they can own a home,” Codel said. “Over 12,000 people have taken advantage of our down payment assistance program, and they all say I had no idea I could own a home.”

Wells Fargo Home Lending also partnered with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals for a 10-year, $125 billion commitment to lend to Hispanic households for the purpose of buying a home, and a $10 million pledge by the Wells Fargo Foundation in support of financial education and counseling for Hispanic homebuyers.

“These awards recognize the importance of embracing a diverse and inclusive real estate finance industry,” said MBA Chairman Rodrigo Lopez. “We received an overwhelming amount of submissions to our inaugural awards, and faced a difficult challenge in selecting from a strong pool of applicants.”

The awards are designed to recognize MBA member companies that have developed innovative ways to foster diversity and inclusion in the industry. For Organizational Diversity and Inclusion: Ballard Spahr and, SunTrust Mortgage won and for Market Outreach Strategies: The PrivateBank, Trust Company along with Wells Fargo took home an award.

“From enacting sound public policy to promoting positive workplace practices, MBA strives to set the right tone for the industry,” Lopez said. “As the leading voice for real estate finance, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate our member companies for their work and dedication in supporting a key industry initiative — diversity and inclusion, as it pertains to hiring, lending and outreach.”

Codel said that along with giving $125 billion to the Hispanic community, Wells Fargo Home Lending will add lending commitments in other minority communities.

“It’s not about lowering the bar for homeownership, but raising people up,” he said.

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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