Norwest Mortgage Inc., Des Moines, has been recognized for its achievement in minority lending by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Among the top five FHA lenders in fiscal 1994, Norwest made the highest percentage of loans to African-American, Asian, and Hispanic first-time homebuyers.

Directors Mortgage Loan Corp., which recently merged with Norwest, also was recognized by HUD for ranking among the top five FHA lenders in number of loans made to Asian and Hispanic first-time home buyers in 1994.

"We hope that Norwest Mortgage and Directors Mortgage Loan Corp. will continue to meet the needs of minorities and that many more FHA-approved lenders will follow your lead," said Nicolas P. Retsinas, assistant housing secretary. "Thank you for your outreach efforts to this underserved population."

Mark Oman, president of Norwest Mortgage, said Norwest's presence in many diverse communities helps the lender mold itself to the needs of each marketplace.

"This recognition underscores our commitment to helping all segments of the population realize their dream of homeownership," Mr. Oman said.

"Mortgage lending is a local issue, which requires a different strategy in every market, particularly when it comes to traditionally underserved communities," he said.

Norwest Mortgage and the Norwest banks are engaged in community outreach efforts in 15 states with organizations such as the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. and Neighborhood Housing Services.

"These ongoing partnerships have been an important part of our success, but we also know that there is still a lot of work to be done," said Patrick Guillion, Norwest Mortgage's fair lending director.

Mr. Guillion said Norwest is also working with real estate and housing organizations that focus on minorities, including Indian housing authorities that represent tribes nationally.

"We are actively seeking community-based affordable housing partners," Mr. Guillion said.

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