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Housing nonprofit brings convention to Baltimore, but councilwoman warns 'buyer beware'

Housing nonprofit brings convention to Baltimore, but councilwoman warns 'buyer beware'
Housing nonprofit brings convention to Baltimore, but councilwoman warns 'buyer beware' 03:12

BALTIMORE -- A nonprofit organization aimed at helping low to moderate-income families become homeowners kicked off its five-day convention in downtown Baltimore on Thursday.

"Don't give up, come prepared. If this is a dream and goal, keep on pushing," said Phillip Jeffers, who was approved for a mortgage Thursday.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, or NACA, assists participants through a four-step process in a single day to become qualified for a mortgage loan.

"Step one, you do a workshop. Step two, you input your information. Step three, you meet one-on-one with a counselor. Step four, you meet with a mortgage specialist to be qualified for NACA's Best in America Mortgage," said NACA founder and CEO Bruce Marks.

The program requires no down payment, no closing cost, no fees, no mortgage insurance and provides people with a below market fixed rate, the head of the organization added.

"Once you get to the mortgage specialist, either you'll be NACA qualified on the spot and then you'll go out and find the property or your next steps," said Marks.

The organization's visit to the Baltimore Convention Center comes nearly five months after the CEO led a rally at City Hall.

In April, the Baltimore City Council weighed Council President Nick Mosby proposal to revive the Dollar House program, selling vacant city-owned homes for a dollar.

Under Mosby's proposal, residents who have lived in Baltimore for more than a decade would be eligible. Recipients would receive a $50,000 grant from the city for renovations under a repair grant bill, and the nonprofit would provide a low-interest loan to pay the mortgage.

Marks led a group to Mayor Brandon Scott's office to demand his support for the bill. It was later learned those supporters were fulfilling a volunteer requirement for the mortgage program.

The Dollar Home legislation has stalled, but that's not deterring Marks from offering assistance to those interested in becoming homeowners.

"We think Baltimore is the perfect place. The problem is, we're being caught up in the Baltimore politics," said Marks.

The nonprofit was also previously met with opposition from certain city leaders, including Councilwoman Odette Ramos.

On Aug. 31, Ramos issued a "buyers beware" notice about NACA.

Ramos stated earlier that she learned NACA participants are "strung along" by the organization in their search for a home and found reports of "shady loan deals and bad customer service."

Over a decade ago, a CBS Miami investigation found angry NACA customers across the country stuck in "an endless cycle of paperwork."

Ramos recommended residents seek out HUD-certified housing counseling organizations based in Baltimore.

The 10 agencies Ramos recommended "will help repair credit, find homebuyer benefits so it is easier to purchase in this market, and ensure that your mortgage is legitimate and works for you," she said.

The HUD-certified housing counseling agencies in the city are:

Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc.
Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.
Druid Heights Community Development Corp.
Garwyn Oaks Northwest Housing Resource Center
Harbel Housing Partnership
Neighborhood Housing Services Of Baltimore, Inc.
Operation Hope-Baltimore Branch
Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Inc.
Southeast Community Development Corporation
St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, Inc.

Ramos was then served a cease and desist letter from NACA, which claimed Ramos' comments about their "questionable practices" were unfounded.

The "Achieve the Dream" convention goes through Mon., Sept. 12. The organization said 5,000 people had registered from all over the DMV-area.

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