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Wow. You’ve got to read this story out of San Francisco. The real estate columnist on sfgate.com, Carol Lloyd, tells this story today of Alberto and Rosa Ramirez, strawberry pickers who make about $300 each weekly in the Bay Area. They combined forces with another couple, mushroom farmers, and actually bought a house for $720,000, “qualifying” under one man’s $15,000 salary. Now, after their payments soared north of $5,000 monthly, they’ve had to stop paying their mortgage and have enlisted the help of an attorney who specializes in predatory lending cases:

Indeed, in a different era (when housing prices were lower), their story might have been one of those bootstrap tales about homeownership transforming immigrant lives. … How did a strawberry picker earning $15,000 a year qualify for a loan of $720,000? The answer, say the experts, lies in a lending industry that got too innovative for its own good.

That piece coincides with my story today on the effect of foreclosure on minorities in San Diego.

In that story, I spoke to a couple of people who’ve been researching and speaking a lot about this recently. They’re with the Center for Responsible Lending.

Here’s one study from March 27 titled “Subprime Lending Is a Drain on Homeownership.”

And from May 31, 2006: “Unfair Lending: The Effect of Race and Ethnicity on the Price of Subprime Mortgages.”

I also talked to Gabe del Rio, the homeownership director at Community HousingWorks, a local nonprofit housing concern, and said they’re hearing from people all the time who are stuck in their mortgages.

KELLY BENNETT

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