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A conversation with the South Florida Latino community

On December 2, 2011, I participated in a White House Latino Community Summit in Miami. The community summit connected senior government officials from diverse policy areas with local Hispanic leaders, business owners, and community advocates to discuss issues critical to the South Florida Latino community.

Too many Latino families have experienced the very reasons that we need a consumer agency in the first place. Beginning in 2007, when the U.S. faced the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression, Latinos have been hit hard. Florida has record numbers of foreclosures and mortgage scams that prey on Latinos, older Americans, and too many others. The summit was an opportunity for the CFPB to discuss what our agency is doing and how the CFPB will help make a difference in addressing the wide range of consumer financial issues that face the Hispanic community.

I invited participants to use our consumer response center to help with their mortgage and credit card complaints. I discussed CFPB’s various Know Before You Owe efforts as well as the work to come that will help stabilize mortgage markets over the long term.

Here are some of the concerns that I heard.

There remains great frustration with the lack of foreclosure relief. Participants recounted the experiences of members of their communities in trying to obtain loan modifications. Participants reported that months pass with no action on modification applications. Distressed homeowners often receive multiple requests for renewed applications because the income information provided in the earlier application becomes stale after three months.

Participants voiced growing concern that financial institutions are incentivizing walk-aways by refusing to process loan modifications, holding off on final foreclosure sales, or refusing to approve short sales. As housing values continue to fall, such delays increase the likelihood that these mitigation efforts will fail.

I also heard from participants who shared their views that federal financial literacy efforts are too fragmented and generally ineffective. Participants noted that it was critical that there be varying technology platforms to further financial education and address disparities across geographies and demographics.

What are you hearing in your community? Tell us your story or leave us a comment below.

Zixta Q. Martinez serves as the CFPB’s Assistant Director for Community Affairs.

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