2005 Emerging Leaders

Patrick Forrest

Expanded homeownership in the impoverished Colonias regions along the U.S.-Mexico border, helping 800 families buy homes.

Homeownership is a touchstone of the American dream and the cornerstone of our communities. More Americans than ever are enjoying the pride of homeownership, with rates at an all-time high. But large segments of our society are being left behind. Although about 70 percent of Americans now own their home, the minority homeownership rate is closer to 50 percent. Patrick Forrest, a 28-year-old Presidential Management Fellow at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has made it his personal mission to close this gap. In particular, he is expanding homeownership in one of the poorest parts of the country – proving that with hard work and commitment, we can expand homeownership anywhere.

The Colonias are shanty towns along the U.S.-Mexico border and among the poorest parts of the country. During his first 18 months at HUD, Forrest made serving these communities his mission. Not only did he gain the respect of the migrant farm workers and other residents, Forrest single-handedly helped to generate more than $150 million to increase homeownership in the Colonias region by creatively using HUD’s Targeted Lending Initiative (TLI).

Under TLI, Ginnie Mae, a division of HUD, increased the supply of affordable housing by reducing fees by as much as 50 percent for approved lenders who originated or purchased home mortgage loans in the Colonias. Ginnie Mae, whose mission is to expand affordable housing in America by linking global capital markets to the nation’s housing markets, never extended mortgage offers to people of the Colonias before Forrest became involved with the cause. Several obstacles had to be overcome to make this possible, and Forrest worked tirelessly to do just that. Hours were spent developing and certifying census tracks in the Colonias region. Forrest held a meeting with several Ginnie Mae vice- presidents, where he demonstrated the need, feasibility and benefits of lending to people of the Colonias regions. And Forrest had to develop relationships with private lenders in the Colonias regions to encourage them to take advantage of the TLI program and provide loans to the residents. In July 2004, success was Forrest’s when Ginnie Mae began lending to the region through TLI.

In the first three months, more than $82 million was generated for affordable housing in this region. Since then, that number has grown to more than $150 million. These loans have enabled 800 residents to purchase a home. And this is just a start. The incentive of reduced fees will continue to result in additional mortgage lending in the region.

Forrest also created and currently manages the Federal Interagency Legal Working Group for Colonias and Migrant/Farmworker Issues. Consisting of ten attorneys from various government departments and agencies, this body is bringing increased federal attention to the unique legal challenges facing these communities, such as discrimination based on national origin, predatory lending and illegal land sales.

Frank Davis, General Deputy Assistant to the Secretary for Housing, said, “Patrick has shown the initiative and drive to gather information and people to see both the housing program and legal working group through to fruition.”

Many people look at the Colonias and see people who are beyond hope. Patrick Forrest sees an opportunity to help some people who need a hand up. And by proving that lenders can do business in this part of the country, he is proving that we can expand homeownership everywhere. Because if lenders can make it there, they can make it anywhere.