WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Angelo R. Mozilo, chairman, CEO and president of Countrywide Financial Corporation, Inc., (NYSE: CFC), urged mortgage professionals, housing experts and others to address the obstacles that create an "intolerably wide" gap between minority and lower-income homeownership and what is classified as white homeownership. Mozilo delivered the John T. Dunlop Lecture sponsored by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and the National Housing Endowment on Tuesday night. In his presentation entitled "The American Dream of Homeownership: From Cliche to Mission," Mozilo told his audience, "Expanding the American dream of homeownership must continue to be our mission, not solely for the purpose of benefiting Corporate America, but more importantly, to make our country a better place." He went on to outline bold suggestions that the mortgage industry and others should consider to overcome barriers to homeownership. These include elimination of mortgage down payment requirements, educational efforts to make the home loan process easier to comprehend, and reduction and streamlining of loan application documentation. Mozilo drew upon his 50 years of experience in the mortgage industry and cited Countrywide's successful efforts to increase homeownership opportunities for minority and lower-income borrowers. From these perspectives, he identified and commented on several structural obstacles within residential finance business practices that adversely impact home-buying among these constituencies: -- The loan underwriting process: "We must look for ways to capture 'alternative' payment histories and to properly factor in cultural differences in credit, income and spending habits, so that we can say 'yes' to borrowers who have the ability and willingness to make their mortgage payments. Credit scores must not be the dominant factor for assessing risk. Non-traditional factors such as rent and utility payment history should be imbedded in the automated underwriting process." -- Loan performance measurement: "Let's focus on the majority of people who are successfully managing their loans and living their dream. Let's not be obsessed by the few that fail, but instead be encouraged by the vast majority who succeed. Let's look for every possible reason to approve applicants, not to reject them." -- Counter-productive regulatory efforts: "With respect to predatory lending, enough of the mania. Let's be mindful that reputable lenders cannot operate under hundreds of laws that only have one thing in common -- the word 'predatory.' Subprime lending and predatory lending are not the same thing. Brushing them with one broad stroke only wipes out the opportunities for homeownership for too many deserving low-income and minority home buyers." Mozilo spoke of the importance of homeownership to families, communities and the nation. "In addition to increasing personal wealth and adding to our national economy, creating more homeownership opportunities and narrowing the homeownership gap increases social capital. In other words, it ties families, neighborhoods and communities together," he explained. Citing several studies, he noted that children living in owned homes have higher math and reading achievement levels, and homeowners are more likely than renters to belong to civic groups, such as parent-teacher organizations. In conclusion, Mozilo said, "Housing is critical to our nation's welfare and to our communities' well-being. Let's make sure that the American dream of Homeownership is never a cliche, and always our cause, and always our steadfast mission. We have the resources. Together, as partners, let's show the will." The John T. Dunlop Lecture was held at the National Housing Center in Washington, DC. The Dunlop Lecture series honors a distinguished member of the Harvard community in recognizing the contributions of emeritus professor John T. Dunlop and his distinguished career at the University, in government, and in the private sector. Dunlop played a key role in establishing the Policy Advisory Board of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. Mozilo serves on that board, as well as the Board of Trustees of the National Housing Endowment, and has been inducted into the National Association of Home Builders Hall of Fame. Founded in 1969, Countrywide Financial Corporation, Inc. (formerly Countrywide Credit Industries, Inc.) is a member of the S&P 500, Fortune 500 and Forbes 500. Countrywide, through its family of companies, provides mortgage banking and diversified financial services in domestic and international markets. Consumer businesses include mortgages, insurance and other financial products. Business-to-business activities encompass capital markets, transaction processing and insurance. The company is headquartered in Calabasas, California, and has 30,000 employees with more than 500 offices nationwide. For more information about the company, visit Countrywide's Web site at www.countrywide.com.
SOURCE Countrywide Financial Corporation, Inc.