Altura Credit Union ($940 million) is located in Riverside, Calif., at the epicenter of the housing crisis. Despite the difficult economic environment, Altura grew in 2007 while maintaining a high level of service and reaching out to members in distress.
Addressing the Housing Crisis:
At the end of 1Q 2008, NCUA examiners wrote Altura: “Try to keep your members in their homes if at all possible.” The examiners suggested loan extensions as a way to alleviate the financial strain on distressed members.
In February, Altura and their CUSO, Patrion Mortgage, held a public seminar for persons in the community who were having trouble meeting their loan payments. About 100 members and non-members attended. At the seminar, the credit union gave a presentation covering various options individuals could pursue to manage their debt and mortgage payments. Afterwards, some attendees asked for assistance; they answered questions from Altura loan officers and filled out loan applications. The loan officers then appraised the properties, evaluated the information, and presented loan proposals to the credit union.
Helping the Member:
According to Suzie Kisslan, SVP of Lending and Operations at Altura, “When members begin to fall behind on their loans and are financially distressed, they are afraid and embarrassed. Many fear that if they contact their lenders and ask for help, the automatic answer will be no, when in fact, many lenders are willing to work with them. We try to get our members to call us and their other lenders as soon as they hit a rough patch. Many of our members have the ability to eventually repay their loans and do not want to walk away from their homes. Helping our members avoid foreclosure is not only a way to provide great service, but also positively affects the bottom line of the credit union. As our members come to us for help, we are willing to work with them to find a solution.”
Altura lived up to these words when it went above and beyond to help members who needed help with their existing mortgages. It has worked with members to modify existing loans using methods such as adding payments to the back of the loan while maintaining the same rate. The credit union has even refinanced mortgage loans where loan-to-value exceeds 100 percent. Altura has refinanced four of these loans, with the highest at129 percent loan-to-value. For each of these refis, Altura was the second position lender. The members were facing resetting ARMs on their first mortgages held by other lenders, and were afraid that they would lose their homes.
Three of these loans were originated from members who attended the public seminar and one was originated from a member who called to ask: “I’m in a bad situation — is there anything that you can to do help?” According to Kisslan, “When our collectors talk to members and realize they are in a difficult situation, they refer them to a collection manager, who examines each case and determines how the credit union can assist them. It is impossible to help everyone, but we do what we can, and go out of our way to help members who have problem loans elsewhere.”