The Ford Foundation plans to grant $50 million to help banks lend to low-income and minority homebuyers.

No foundation has ever made so large a grant to foster homeownership, Ford said.

The recipient would be Self-Help, a Durham, N.C., nonprofit group that aims to funnel $2 billion in loans to minority and low-income homebuyers nationally over the next five years. Fannie Mae, the housing finance giant, would be a partner.

The grant "helps cover the risks involved in testing new lending practices that could build the assets of disadvantaged people," said Susan V. Berresford, the foundation's president.

The effort is expected to help the lenders-including Banc One, Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Corp., and NationsBank-meet community reinvestment obligations.

The funds would help expand Self-Help's secondary market program. The organization expects to buy $400 million of loans from banks each year, providing funds to create affordable mortgages for 35,000 low-income homebuyers, according to a news release.

The targets would include homebuyers who have only small down payments and those who have inadequate reserves or weak credit.

The foundation's money would provide for credit enhancement to the loans purchased by Self-Help.

Fannie Mae said that in turn it would buy or securitize the $2 billion in loans.

The foundation said it also would fund an analysis of the loans' repayment histories, delinquencies, and defaults.

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