Wells Fargo announces deal to help low income families own homes

(WMC-TV) – Wells Fargo officials got a first-hand look at the impact of predatory lending practices in Memphis and Shelby County on Wednesday.

Not only did bank officials get the chance to canvas neighborhoods affected by the foreclosure crisis, they also met many of the low income families who say they just want equal home ownership opportunities.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and the regional president of Wells Fargo Bank visited south Memphis near Prospect and McKellar Wednesday to announce a deal had been made to dismiss a multi-million dollar predatory lending lawsuit filed by the city and county in January 2010, alleging the bank discriminated against minorities.

Under the agreement, over the next five years Wells Fargo will provide $425 million as part of a five-year mortgage lending goal.

"There's also going to be financial literacy to help with making the payment, caring for the home, etcetera," said Wells Fargo Regional Director Leigh Collier.

For those who qualify, grants totaling $4.5 million will assist families with down payments and home renovations.

Under the home ownership program families may receive grants worth up to $15,000 to purchase a house.

Prospective buyers must have a family income not above 120 percent of the area median income and must complete an 8-hour home buyer education session among other criteria.

As a south Memphis, public housing resident, Tamika Jamison says home ownership is a dream for her family.

"Just being able to make a choice on your own, you know, pick your own decorations or format or what have you. And now that we finally have it we need to take advantage of it," said Jamison.

In addition, as part of its agreement, Wells Fargo is contributing an additional $3 million to advance local initiatives and programs related to economic vitality.

Many people question whether this agreement came after the mounting pressures of litigation but Mayor Wharton says it is just favorable timing.

"Wells Fargo saw an opportunity to extend its spirit of partnership and, hey, it came together," said Mayor Wharton.

Wells Fargo says the agreement details and the program criteria are still being ironed out so they are not taking applications at this time. An announcement is set to be made later this year about how to apply.

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