A coalition of mortgage lenders and community groups is celebrating its one-year anniversary with some positive results despite the surge in interest rates in recent months.

The New York Mortgage Coalition, a group comprising 14 New York-area banks, including giants such as Citibank, Chemical Bank and Chase Manhattan, announced that it had made 191 mortgage loans to low-income and moderate-income borrowers totaling more than $21.5 million.

Of the 283 loan applicants referred to the coalition from community groups through April, 78% have been approved; some are pending.

More striking were the denial rates for home loans. which came in much lower than the national averages.

Black applicants in the program had the highest denial rate with 16%, followed by Hispanics with 13%. and white applicants with 10%.

Preliminary figures from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, released under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, show a much higher percentage of blacks, 34%, were denied loans across the country, followed by Hispanics with 25.2%, and white applicants. 15.4%.

Directors for the group attribute the low denial numbers to the counseling and prescreening that borrowers go through before they apply.

"Everyone that wants a coalition loan has to get counseling," said Carol Perry, vice chairwoman of the coalition, and managing director of community development for Chemical Bank.

The banks participating in the group, along with the Fannie Mae Foundation, fund credit-counseling services to help applicants clean up any credit-history problems.

And to foster competition and insure that the borrower gets as much exposure as possible, the loan applications are floated from bank to bank until one accepts the loan or it is denied.

Flexibility with down-payment structures and loan-to-value ratios as high as 97%, are some of the other ways that the group is pushing its lending criteria, Ms. Perry said.

"We're learning why we're denying people so we can look at our underwriting process to see if we're creating obstacles," said Phyllis Rosenblum, chairwoman Of the coalition and a senior vice president at Republic National Bank.

In addition to the units of Citicorp, Chemical Banking Corp., and Chase Manhattan Corp., the coalition members are:

Banco Popular, San Juan; Bank of New York Corp., Dime Savings Bank of New York; European American Bancorp; Crossland Federal Savings Bank; and Fleet Bank, Hartford, Conn, a division of Fleet Financial Corp.

Also, First Fidelity Bank; Home Savings of America IndependenCe Savings Bank, Brooklyn; National Westminster Bank USA, New York; and Republic National Bank of New York, a unit of Republic New York Corp.

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