CRA Loan Officers: On Your Home Team
What is a CRA Loan Officer?
You may have heard the title “CRA Loan Officer” before—but what does it mean, exactly? CRA stands for “Community Reinvestment Act.” A CRA Loan Officer sets up qualified borrowers with home loans in compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act.
The federal act, passed by Congress in 1977, established guidelines for financial institutions to meet the needs of the local community, including low-to-moderate income neighborhoods.
Great Midwest Bank has two CRA loan officers: Brenda Brown in our Bayside office and Jennifer Lamb in our Greenfield office. Jennifer is fluent in Spanish, and has a special passion for working with borrowers in the Latino community.
A Word on HUD
“HUD” is short for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have numerous regulations and programs to promote fair lending, housing, and rental practices in the United States. It sponsors housing counseling-focused agencies throughout the U.S. to provide HUD-approved counseling services on things like home purchases, foreclosures, and credit.
A HUD-certified housing counselor works to:
- Create more accessibility for owning a home
- Help people access housing within their budget
- Expand people’s financial literacy
- Empower buyers with tools for sustainable homeownership
What does a CRA Loan Officer specifically do?
Let’s leave it to one of our experts—Brenda Brown, a CRA Loan Officer in our Bayside office– to explain. In Brenda’s words, “CRA Loan Officers ensure that the bank is serving a community by offering loans to those seeking homeownership who may fall under the HUD income guidelines, or live in a low-income area. They follow compliance rules while supporting families to make sure they are being served and receiving the assistance they need to achieve homeownership.”
CRA Loan Officers are specially trained to ensure opportunities for home mortgage loans are available in low- and moderate-income communities. Loan application decisions are carefully reviewed to avoid any housing discrimination, racial disparities, or redlining (denying a loan to a qualified applicant based on discriminatory reasons) in lending. They make sure each customer is treated with fairness when seeking a mortgage loan.
These specialized loan officers fulfill a variety of clients’ lending needs. “We serve everyone!” Brenda says. She specifically focuses on working with first-time buyers, new construction buyers, and low/moderate-income homeowners who need home improvements.
Brenda’s advice for first-time homebuyers: “Take the homebuying classes from a HUD-certified counseling agency or E-Home America. Please get the education before you call for a pre-approval from a lender!”
Our CRA Loan Officers make sure each customer is treated with fairness when seeking a mortgage loan.
Resources and Connections
Another important role CRA Loan Officers serve is to help connect low-to-moderate income families with the resources they need to secure a home loan. Sometimes that means referring people to agencies that provide tools to successfully purchase and keep a home. Great Midwest Bank teams with community organizations like Acts Housing and Housing Resources, Inc. to set up prospective homebuyers with budget, credit, and housing counseling through HUD-certified housing counselors.
If you feel homeownership is currently out of reach, our CRA Loan Officers have the knowledge and the resources to help you create an action plan to get there.
Acts Housing provides HUD-approved financial counseling to individuals and families to prepare them with the tools needed to buy a home. The organization works with homebuyers in the Milwaukee and Beloit areas.
Housing Resources, Inc.
Housing Resources, Inc. is a minority-run agency in Milwaukee that provides quality HUD-certified home counseling services to prospective low- and moderate-income homebuyers. Their mission is to, “prepare people for sustainable homeownership and foster financial empowerment.”
Brenda Brown’s Background
Great Midwest Bank’s CRA Loan Officer Brenda Brown has over 25 years of banking and mortgage lending experience, as well as past experience as a HUD-certified Housing/Foreclosure Preservation Counselor. She was also an entrepreneur of a janitorial cleaning business for 16 years! Brenda also serves the community through volunteerism, both through her church and through the Johnsons Park Neighborhood Association, helping them proactively improve the quality of life for all residents through community-building initiatives.
“As an African American professional woman, I have and continue to be very involved in my community,” Brenda shares. “I take pride in helping families in my community and culture. These families who come to us are trying to attain the most important investment they will ever make, and that is to purchase a home and become a homeowner.”
Brenda’s CRA Loan Officer Path
CRA Loan Officers are invested in the community—it’s key to the role. For Brenda, it’s a calling.
“Historically my culture has had to endure a lot; I want to be that CRA Loan Officer that can and will educate them, guide them, and support their dream of homeownership- I even attend their closings since I am also a Notary. I’ll make sure all the way to the end they get their keys to the new home!”
Brenda discusses her most memorable experience as a CRA Loan Officer. She once had a client who was renting at the time—a single mother with a 10-year-old son. This client was referred to Brenda, and Brenda was able to pre-approve the client to buy her first home. “She just couldn’t believe that her new mortgage payment was LOWER than what she was paying for rent,” Brenda remembers.
Her favorite thing about working in the local market? “I see the impact and the results of what I can do to help someone become a homeowner! It’s exciting!”
Walnut Circle and Josey Heights Efforts
Great Midwest Bank likes to keep it “Simply Local,” and Brenda lives and breathes that philosophy. This is especially apparent in her local neighborhood development work.
Brenda says she and her husband Henry built their home in the Walnut Circle Neighborhood 14 years ago. Shortly after, the foreclosure crisis hit in 2008. As a result, the Walnut Circle and Josey Heights subdivisions in Milwaukee were dormant for over 13 years.
Brenda recalls, “When the foreclosure market hit, it was sad. Our neighborhood construction came to a HALT! But, I knew the real estate market would come back eventually. It has!”
To encourage new construction and community development in the Walnut Circle and Josey Heights subdivisions, the City of Milwaukee is offering up lots in these neighborhoods for $1.00. Currently, a $30,000 grant is available to qualified buyers who desire to build a new home in these areas and agree to occupy the home for at least seven years.
Great Midwest Bank is the lead lender for home construction loans in this project, with Brenda taking charge as the lead Loan Officer. Brenda notes the home construction initiative is a terrific deal, but that ultimately these are “dream homes” for which people will need to meet a set of qualifications.
At the time of writing this blog post, there are currently four houses completed in Walnut Circle with three more approved to break ground in the summer of 2022. Josey Heights has three homes completed with three more approved to break ground in summer as well. Walnut Circle has about 20 lots left for the taking, and Josey Heights has about 24 lots. If you’re interested, Brenda can’t wait to talk to you.
Simply Local Passion
The neighborhood development has been progressing well, largely due to widespread passion for the local community. With the backing of the City of Milwaukee, Great Midwest Bank, and Brenda Brown, the project is well-supported in both expertise and enthusiasm.
“We love our diverse neighborhood,” Brenda beams. “I have a personal interest in my neighborhood development—I care!”
The neighborhoods are also mere minutes away from the Fiserv Forum—another convenient perk of living there.
“I am so proud to watch it happening and to have the support of Great Midwest Bank,” Brenda says. “Great Midwest Bank listened to me when I shared what I wanted to do in my neighborhood. GMB has supported me and continues to do so along the way. I count it a privilege to work at this locally family-owned bank.”
Begin the Conversation
Want to start your home loan journey but don’t know where to start? Talk to a neighborhood Loan Officer at Great Midwest Bank. We’re here to make the experience as stress-free as possible from start to finish. For CRA resources, information on the Walnut Circle and Josey Heights developments, or any other lending needs, drop Brenda Brown a line today! She’s thrilled to be your Simply Local CRA Loan Officer.
Brenda Brown, CRA Loan Officer (Bayside Branch)