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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winner: Maryland

Best Practice: Baltimore Coalition to End Predatory Lending


Baltimore, Maryland.
A coalition of community and nonprofit organizations, in conjunction with city agencies, federal and state elected officials, and HUD officials, is helping homeowners save their homes and providing a stable living environment in Baltimore, Maryland, by fighting to end predatory lending practices.

The coalition is creatively and holistically responding to these practices by locating assistance for victims, recruiting housing counselors to help victims determine their needs, and working with the victims’ lawyers to convince the sub-prime lenders that their mortgages are inflated and should be reduced to an amount in line with the value of the homes and within the ability of homeowners to pay.

By collaborating with representatives from HUD’s Inspector General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, and state legislators, the coalition increased awareness of predatory lending practices in Baltimore, which led to a HUD-imposed moratorium on foreclosures and to the creation of a national Task Force on Predatory Lending.

The coalition’s greatest challenge is combating the impacts of predatory real estate practices on individual homeowners as well as on city neighborhoods in transition. The coalition found speculators obtaining dilapidated houses at low prices, making cosmetic repairs, selling the homes to unqualified purchasers at prices in excess of the properties’ value, increasing the first mortgage above the buyer’s agreed price and charging high points and high interest rates.

“There are many kinds of mortgage scams and ‘flipping’ schemes going on in Baltimore,” says Ken Strong, Executive Director of the South East Community Organization in Baltimore.

“Flipping” schemes are those in which a property is resold within a short time at a greatly inflated price and has not received the extensive rehabilitation needed to justify the increase in price. Among others, scams in both the conventional and FHA mortgage market include false gift letters, inflated appraisals, fraudulent second mortgages, and investor schemes where investors falsely represent investment mortgages as homeowner mortgages for a higher sales value.

These unfair practices cause people to lose their homes and also undermine neighborhood stability. The actions of the coalition have not only helped victims save their homes, but also have resulted in a number of investigations, several indictments and regulatory discipline actions. More importantly, the FHA Commissioner announced a series of reforms to FHA procedures designed to protect consumers and communities from the detrimental effects of predatory real estate practices.

Thanks to the efforts of the Baltimore Coalition to End Predatory Lending, it may not be necessary to replicate this best practice because of the national FHA reforms encouraged by the coalition’s work.
However, communities across the nation can come together to address the individual needs of victims and call the practices to the attention of government regulators and enforcement agencies, as well as state and federal elected officials.

Contact: Ken Strong, Phone: (410) 327-1626
Tracking Number: 1548
Winning Category: Program (Community Builder)

Best Practice: 1000 in 2000


Annapolis, Maryland. The Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, Maryland (HACA), makes computer technology accessible to public housing residents where they live. HACA’s computer skills training program helps youthful residents become competitive in school and the workforce, and generate self-confidence and self-esteem. The computer-training program also helps adult family members of trainees become more comfortable and motivated to join the program. As of April 2000, 350 certificates were awarded to students in PC and Internet literacy, keyboarding and completion of progressively difficult educational software programs.

Photo of P. Croslan receiving Best of the Best award
P. Croslan (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

HACA and its private sector partner, USinternetworking (USi), tripled the program with the goal of awarding 1000 certificates by the end of the year 2000. USi provides computers, related equipment, and software and Internet access for two new community computer centers, supplementing HACA’s existing center. The two new computer centers opened in November 1999, expanding HACA’s computer training program from 12 to 32 workstations.

HACA is now able to hold two after-school-training sessions at each location every weekday as well as an adult session twice per week. The computer centers are used to capacity, serving 200—and sometimes as many as 300—youth per week. The adult program now has 15 participants and continues to grow. In addition, USi also funds a home PC award program, providing a PC and Internet access each month to five students who show the greatest progress and promise.

Basic computer literacy and access to computer technology is crucial for public housing youth to excel in school and for working-age public housing residents to obtain jobs with wages high enough to move them out of poverty. In a 1999 HACA survey, 80 percent of households indicated that computer training would be the most useful service for the housing authority to provide.

HACA used several creative elements to take the “1000 in 2000” program beyond the traditional computer lab program. The following makes the program unique: clear, time-limited project goals; an in-home PC program to encourage participation and reinforce learning; an essay contest to stimulate resident thinking about why computers are important; and a resident website and e-mail accounts for all residents who want them. HACA also successfully leverages private resources with housing authority and HUD funds.

Based on instructors’ assessments and review of students’ report cards, HACA has found that youth who attend computer centers are doing well in school and their reading skills are improving. In addition, 40 percent of the young people showed above-average motivation and interest, and 30 percent showed above-average class participation and ability to follow instructions.

HACA has created a formula for a successful computer-training program that assists residents in reaching their goals:

  • Make a large enough investment to ensure that computers, teachers and software are convenient for residents to access. HACA was able to do so by combining its own resources with HUD Drug Elimination grant funds and private partnerships.

  • Integrate the computer program with other well-attended programs. HACA makes computer-training part of its after-school program and summer camp.

  • Seek a private partnership, particularly with a technology firm, and encourage an active role by the partner in providing ideas and oversight as well as financial resources.

  • Set ambitious but obtainable goals. Naming the project by its goal “1,000 in 2000” has kept HACA and USi focused on achieving this goal. Having a clear, quantitative goal also helps market the project to other private donors because it shows the project will have a significant outcome.

  • Be prepared to purchase a wide variety of learning software and to create a variety of Internet-based class assignments to keep students interested and challenged.

Contact: P. Croslan, Phone: (410) 267-8000
Tracking Number: 169
Winning Category: Program (Public and Indian Housing)

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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