Countrywide Home Loans today announced an expansion of its We House America initiative to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities and lower-income borrowers and communities through 2010.

“The $1 Trillion We House America Challenge, expanded from $600 billion announced in 2003, embodies Countrywide’s long-standing commitment to lead the mortgage industry in closing the home-ownership gap for minority and lower-income families and communities,” said Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide Financial Corp. chairman and CEO, who announced the initiative at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando.

“For several years now, Countrywide has been a leading lender to minorities and lower-income households,” Mozilo said. “I am proud of our lending record and pleased to announce the expansion of our lending commitment to $1 trillion.” The We House America program has already placed 2.4 million families into homes, Mozilo said that number should nearly triple by 2010.

The company will continue to develop innovative programs emphasizing non-traditional lending criteria, according to the announcement, such as calling for improved underwriting systems that eliminate the over-reliance on traditional credit scores that can mask a borrower’s true credit-worthiness.

Countrywide last year launched Optimum Loan, a program that addresses obstacles for hard-to-qualify borrowers, such as allowing for non-occupant co-borrowers, other secondary income, and pooled funds for down payments.

The company is also increasing its support for financial literacy programs. Countrywide officials say that expanded access to high quality financial literacy training can help to educate prospective homeowners about credit and financial responsibility. The program will be announced next week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

“To ensure that this objective is achieved, we intend to expand upon our existing partnerships with specific community groups,” Mozilo said.

Henry Cisneros, a Countrywide director and a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said, “This company is leading the industry in closing the homeownership gap through ambitious lending commitments, innovative programs, and a strong corporate culture that constantly looks for ways to improve.”

Countrywide formalized its commitment to affordable lending more than a decade ago by launching We House America, an initiative to provide increased homeownership opportunities for all Americans. The previous commitment covered the years of 2001-10 and has provided $341 billion of home loans as of Dec. 31, 2004. The company is now extending the goal to $1 trillion by 2010.

Countrywide Financial Corporation is a member of the S&P 500 and Fortune 500. Through its family of companies, Countrywide provides mortgage banking and diversified financial services in domestic and international markets. Mortgage banking businesses include loan production and servicing principally through Countrywide Home Loans Inc., which originates, purchases, securitizes, sells, and services residential loans.

Also included in Countrywide’s mortgage banking segment is the LandSafe group of companies that provide loan closing services. Diversified financial services include capital markets, banking, and insurance.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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