LAS VEGAS–A number of credit unions that say that have “embraced” the government’s HARP program say it has hugged them back by boosting lending.

 

Kim Westover, VP of mortgage for $669-million One Nevada CU, said 75% of its mortgage lending business is refinance loans, and out of that half has been loans that are part of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

 

“We have really embraced the program,” Westover said. “We feel it is an excellent thing for our members and the community in general. We are small compared to BofA, Wells and Chase, but we are doing well.”

 

Westover said One Nevada expects to do $130 million in HARP loans and $250 million in total mortgages, which is double its 2011 total of $125 million in mortgages.

 

“We are very excited and mortgages are a big part of our institution. It is a good revenue source and is bringing in new members,” Westover said.

In Reno, Jennifer Denoo, chief operations officer for $120-million Great Basin CU, said her credit unions has similarly seen been very active in HARP loans, especially after version 2.0 was installed.

 

“Earlier this year the acceptable loan-to-value ratio was increased, which helped a lot more people qualify,” she explained. “The factor that keeps people from qualifying is it has to be a Fannie or Freddie loan, and a lot of people don’t understand that. They hear some help is available to them, and then we have to tell them they don’t qualify and they are let down all over again.”

 

Some 32 miles south of Reno, in the state capital Carson City, Nev., Greater Nevada CU CEO Wally Murray said HARP has been “very helpful,” and again, particularly pointing to HARP 2.0.

 

“Many people have taken advantage of it, and the largest percentages of our refi’s are HARP 2.0,” he reported. “These loans generate additional fee income and it is good to keep those loans on the books. HARP 2.0 has the additional benefit of being able to attract qualified loans from other financial institutions.”

 

Reaching Out To Members

 

In California, Cynthia Negri, SVP retail lending for $2-billion Redwood CU in Santa Rosa, said that since May RCU has funded 127 HARP loans for $27 million. Since the inception of HARP in 2010 Redwood has funded 384 loans for $85 million.

 

“Members are very happy to discover we can help them out,” Negri said. “We reached out to all members we figured were HARP-eligible and they were very happy to lower their payments.”

In Ventura, Calif., Greg Uttal, director of lending for $624-million Ventura County Credit Union, said VCCU does not sell loans to Fannie or Freddie, so it does not have a direct HARP relationship, but it treats some loans in a HARP-like manner to help members keep their homes.

 

“It is a fairly small number of loans, but those members really appreciated it because they were able to make the payment more affordable,” said Uttal. “It goes to show banks work with numbers and credit unions work with members.”

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