From home ownership to foreclosure: Latinos hit hard by mortgage crisis

At the end of May 2007, Jorge Sanchez loaded his cousin's pickup truck and moved his young family from an apartment into a house in Fitchburg. The house was just three years old. Its light brown siding was accented by a bright red front door. A park sat invitingly down the street.

That was six years after Sanchez and his wife, Minerva Abrajan, natives of Puebla, Mexico, arrived in Madison. They're not citizens, but, as permanent residents who pay U.S. taxes, the UW-Madison janitors obtained a mortgage under a new loan program aimed at extending home ownership to people who previously couldn't qualify.

"We wanted a house because we had two kids already," Sanchez said. "We wanted something better for them."

The new program opened a door to home loans to non-citizens, helping usher in a sharp increase in homeownership among local Latinos in the second half of the last decade — shortly before a corresponding increase in foreclosure filings against the same group a few years later.

The loans, first offered through a Wisconsin Housing and Economic Authority (WHEDA) pilot program and later by an array of private lenders, allowed people with individual taxpayer identification numbers, or ITINs, to apply for home loans. But ITIN loans suffered from bad timing and, in some cases, left the intended beneficiaries more downtrodden financially than before they got the loans.

In 2004, when ITIN loans started being issued by a local lender, foreclosures were filed against eight Latinos in Dane County, based on a review of court documents identifying Latinos by what the federal Census Bureau defines as commonly occuring last names. In 2009, that number ballooned to 125 — Jorge Sanchez among them —an increase of 1,462 percent. Total foreclosure filings skyrocketed as well but at an increase of 302 percent. READ MORE

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