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The Color of Money

Follow-ups and reaction

Special loans are open to all homebuyers

By Bill Dedman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published October 9, 1988, Page A10

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

You don't have to be black or poor to qualify for the low-interest home loans offered by Atlanta banks.

Blacks have received about two-thirds of the loans so far, and most of the loans have been made in working-class neighborhoods on the inner-city Southside.

But the programs are open to any person who meets the guidelines. One program is open to homebuyers in any part of metro Atlanta, and another sets a ceiling only on the loan amount, not on household income.

Two couples illustrate the diversity of the programs.

Robert T. and Lee B. McWaters, who are white and of moderate income, have moved into their new home on Monticello Place in Midway Manor, an integrated neighborhood near Avondale Mall in south DeKalb County. They secured a loan from Trust Company Bank through the Atlanta Mortgage Consortium, which includes nine lenders.

A former waiter, Mr. McWaters, 35, now is a systems analyst at Unisys Corp. in Dunwoody. Mrs. McWaters, also 35, is a bartender at the Olive Garden restaurant in Sandy Springs. The two-bedroom house is their first.

Without the special loan, Mrs. McWaters says they wouldn't have been able to buy a house now.

"When we were married two years ago, my husband started talking about buying a house. I said, `There's no way we can afford that.' But we heard about this program and he said, `I think we can get that much.' "

The attraction was the low down payment -- only 5 percent -- and lower closing costs. After paying $415 for rent, they now pay $493 a month for a home they own.

"It's no giveaway," Mrs. McWaters said. "We had to have almost $6,000 to put down."

Across town in Collier Heights, M. Gino Brogdon and his wife, Jann Adams, are settling into their new home.

He is a lawyer with the firm of Drew Eckl & Farnham, and she teaches psychology at Clark Atlanta University. Both are 27.

They were shopping for houses when their real estate agent suggested the "House Money" program at Trust Company. Although their incomes would have placed them over the limits of most of the programs, the Trust Company program, separate from the consortium, has no income limit; the only limit is on the amount of the loan -- $75,000.

The couple, who are black, wanted to raise their son, Gino Jr., in a black neighborhood with predominantly black schools. They chose a house on Larchmont Court near Frederick Douglass High School in west Atlanta's Collier Heights, a fashionable black area.

"It's a two-edged sword," Mr. Brogdon said. "You can get a lot more house for your money in a black neighborhood, but you're going to be faced with slower appreciation."

They say they were pleasantly received by bank employees.

"It sort of renewed our faith to see the banks reaching out to say discrimination was not a plan," he said. "If the history in Atlanta in terms of black folks was that they either have been systematically denied adequate financing or it was made less accessible, this was something to correct that."


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