Statement of Support from Operation HOPE for the Nomination of Congressman Mel Watt
Washington, D.C. and our nation need strong and effective leadership today more than ever. Congressman Mel Watts seems to fit that description to me. Important to me, one of my key employee's family was a constituent of the then Congressman in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they uniformly endorse him. I am told that while Congressman, Mr. Watt encouraged the local adoption of our Banking On Our Future, College Edition Program, where we educated college students in North Carolina on financial literacy. This suggests a man who doesn't just talk about things, but seeks to do thing too.
Congressman Watt has over 20 years of congressional experience on the Financial Services Committee, where he sponsored and/or co-sponsored economic empowerment legislation around homeownership, consumer protection, entrepreneurship, small business, and financial literacy. He understands the needs of prospective homeowners, the practical interests of the private sector, and the necessary role of the federal government.
As the nation's recognized nonprofit "private banker" for the working poor, the underserved, and the struggling middle class, operating an established network of U.S. HUD approved housing counseling HOPE Financial Dignity Centers across the country, we have been standing in the breach of the crisis around responsible American homeownership for all for more than 20 years now.
HOPE has helped direct approximately $1 billion in fresh homeownership capital for borrowers and into low-wealth communities, with over 11,000 loan originations for responsible borrowers. The HOPE 700 Credit Score Communities Initiative, with active and engaged counseling, has moved credit scores for low wealth borrowers an average of 120 points over 18 months time. Our broader housing and mortgage work also includes our mortgage recovery work for others, inclusive of approximately $600 million in mortgage modifications and mortgage restructuring for homeowners hit by the subprime mortgage crisis through our Mortgage HOPE Crisis Hotline.
Recently, Operation HOPE and I have worked closely with my friend Robert Gnaizda, Esq, a co-founder of the Greenlining Institute, to develop and encourage the banking industry adoption of something we called the Dignity Mortgage, or alternatively something similar to it. The Dignity Mortgage would re-open the doors of responsible homeownership to and for as many as one million new homeowners annually, again, on a sustainable basis.
Something bold like this requires visionary and out-of-the-box thinking, and Presidential support and leadership. Many people of good will can and desire to be creative thinkers in Washington, D.C., but Mr. Watt now has the President's strong support, and that's at least half the battle in getting something done in which everyone can agree on.
The nation simply cannot enjoy a full economic recovery without a full recovery in housing. And you cannot have a full recovery in housing, unless you have an effective mortgage strategy going forward that recognizes, if not fully compliments, the essence of Dodd-Frank (as well as other associated federal policy put in place post economic crisis).
It helps that Mr. Watt played a key role in passing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and has co-sponsored various versions of the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act.
Mr. Watt is a former congressional Black Caucus chairman, and during his 20 years in Congress, Rep. Watt has held senior positions on the House Financial Services and House Judiciary Committees.
Operation HOPE fully supports the nomination of U.S. Congressman Mel Watt as the Director of the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency, and commends President Barack Obama for making this important nomination, at this important time in America's history.
In today's challenging public policy and economic leadership environment, nothing short of strong, visionary (yet practical) and committed leadership is needed across the full spectrum of issues. This is no less the case in the housing and mortgage space.
I and we believe that Congressman Mel Watt has the background, the credentials, and the desire to make an effective difference where it counts. I and we will stand with him.
We look forward to a swift confirmation.
John Hope Bryant
Founder, Chairman & CEO