Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nonprofit agency offers low-cost car loans

Housing group sees need for reliable transportation By Naomi Snyder • THE TENNESSEAN • December 25, 2008 Just as auto loans are harder to come by for people with credit problems, some Nashville residents now have a chance to get an automobile loan through a local nonprofit. Affordable Housing Resources has signed on with a national charitable program called Ways to Work that will provide used-car loans to Nashville residents who meet certain guidelines. "The need is just overwhelming for good reliable transportation at an affordable price," said Hunter Atkins, the president and chief executive of Bank of Nashville, who also is chairman of the board of Milwaukee-based Ways to Work. Affordable Housing Resources plans to give out 40 to 60 car loans during the next year in Nashville, where it already serves local residents by providing affordable housing. The group's chief executive officer, Eddie Latimer, said the organization realized it was having a tough time putting low-income people into houses because so many have expensive car loans. "People come in here with six or seven-year (used) car notes and there's no way the car is going to last that long,'' he said. "We're trying to help people into cars that are more affordable so they can get into a house." Transportation is first One of those people is Barbara Ewing, a 49-year-old who lives in public housing and takes care of a 19-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. Ewing said she wants to own a home some day, but for now, she's concentrating on getting a car. Her nearly decade-old Hyundai needs a new transmission, which she can't afford. Ewing works for the city of Nashville monitoring special-needs children on city-owned buses. She gets to work at 5:30 a.m. and works until about 9 a.m., then goes home for a break before coming back to work about 1:30 p.m. for the afternoon bus rides. But getting to work and back has been tough. Her car almost stalled recently while trying to get on the interstate in front of a tractor-trailer. "That was a horrifying moment,'' she said. "I thought, 'I definitely need reliable transportation.' " Ewing got approved for a car loan through Affordable Housing Resources. The group offers up to $4,000 loans on used cars at 8 percent interest for two years. Latimer said they wanted to keep interest costs low, so they are limiting loans to two years. The average interest auto lenders are offering for a three-year loan is 7.10 percent nationally, according to But that rate normally goes to customers with good credit. Affordable Housing Resources will offer loans to people with a few dings on their credit report. Program requirements Applicants must have a job or go to school and be caring for a child. They must live in Davidson County and make about 80 percent or less of the median income in the county, depending on the number of people in the household. The median household income in Davidson County was $44,486 in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There are other requirements, as well, including 15-hour financial literacy training. Atkins said 38 organizations in the country offer Ways to Work loans, but Nashville is the first for Tennessee. He expects other organizations in other counties will begin offering the loans in the next year or two. For more information, contact Tony Higginbotham at Affordable Housing Resources at 615-251-0025, ext. 270.

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