In 1992, the federal government established the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program to advance Native American home ownership. As the team at BOK Financial relates, “loans through the Section 184 program require a low minimum down payment—generally 2.25%, or as low as 1.25% for loans less than $50,000—and Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) of only 0.25%.”
We spoke with Elvira M-Duran, mortgage banker with Bank of Albuquerque (part of the BOK Financial family of brands) for perspective on this important program.
1. What originally drew you to mortgage banking? What brings you back every day?
I’ve completed 20 years now with Bank of Albuquerque, all of this in the mortgage division. I loved being in the customer service area and still do. The best part of this job is just seeing the happiness, excitement, and pride people have when buying their first home.
2. Here we are in the second quarter of 2022. How many mortgages do you anticipate you’ll complete in 2022, and how many of them will be Section 184?
I’m projecting to close around $18 million or more this year. The 184 product is growing as more and more real estate agents are asking about it. This year I’ll probably close around 50 tribal land loans.
3. Are you able to talk generally about the first Section 184 loan that you completed? How has the program changed?
The first Section 184 loan I closed took about 18 months. This was back in 2004. There were so many moving parts that eventually came together to make it happen. At that time, formal approval was done directly by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the program did not have a lot of acceptance. There were long delays in every aspect as everyone was trying to work on a better process.
I believe, because of the pandemic, we took a step backwards. Many of the Pueblo tribes in New Mexico closed down completely, and some Native American tribes and supporting organizations are still not operating at full capacity, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). We are seeing delays with necessary paperwork, like residential leases, which have to be approved by the Tribal Council, and title status reports, which have to be approved by BIA.It’s hard to say when things will return to normal as each tribe handles things differently. When COVID numbers rise, they shut down operations and only allow tribal members in and out of the Pueblos. Tribal meetings (during which residential leases are reviewed) either get canceled or moved out for a later date.
4. You’ve said before that in New Mexico, where you work, more Native Americans are asking direct questions about Section 184 loans. What do you think accounts for the difference in awareness from state to state?
I believe it is because, here in New Mexico, we are surrounded by 19 Pueblos. Many of the tribal members live on tribal land, and the possibility of having the option to buy, build, or refinance is exciting for them. Before the pandemic we were attending housing fairs at many of the Pueblos and providing information about home loans under HUD Section 184. We work closely with the housing divisions within the Pueblos to get the information out there.
5. From your observation, how important is home ownership for Native Americans?
It’s so very important as this is an underserved segment of the population and home ownership is actually key to building long-term financial stability for families. Many Native Americans do not own homes and live with extended family members. In many cases there will be eight or more family members living in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home.
6. Could you list some of the differentiators that make BOK Financial’s approach successful?
We have a long track record in working with the Pueblos. We believe in providing advice and support beyond completing the paperwork. Prior to the pandemic, we loved getting out into these communities to offer informal question and answer sessions on financial literacy and programs like HUD 184s. When the Pueblos reopen, we look forward to starting that outreach again. It’s an important part of how we serve our clients and our communities.
Thank you, Elvira! We wish you the best as you work with families and tribes to continue advancing Native American home ownership.