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I wasn’t at all surprised when I  read the article in the The New York Times about mortgage companies and banks denying home loans to pregnant women and women on maternity leave because it's a scenario that for me hit pretty close to, ahem, home.

Recently my husband and I had the pleasure of finding a new home, after a year and a half of looking. We thought that finding the right new house could be hard, and selling our old house could be hard, but we thought (being of sound mind and body, financially speaking) that getting the mortgage would be the easy part.  Wrong!

When my husband and I went to apply for a mortgage we chose Wells Fargo because that was our bank at the time.  To qualify for our mortgage, Wells Fargo told us we had to write a “motivational letter” explaining why we wanted the house, and discussing, among other things, our family planning.  After asking two separate Wells Fargo mortgage reps to be excused from this aspect of the process (and being refused), and after telling them I thought it was illegal (they didn’t seem to care), we were inspired to write the following response which I’m sharing with you because sometimes you just have to laugh – otherwise you’ll cry your eyes out:

Dear Wells Fargo,

You have asked us (okay, required us as a condition of our mortgage approval, but I’m trying to put a nice face on it) to write a college-application-type essay explaining why we *HEART* 6 Henley Court.  It is not enough that we have great, stable jobs, credit scores in the high 700s-800s, NO DEBT OF ANY KIND, and the loan is less than 50% of the value of the property- we have to get you to approve our choice of new home, and, funnily enough, any plans we might have to enlarge our family. Well, here goes!

Why do we *HEART* 6 Henley Court?  Yes, it is a larger home on a larger property.  (note the discussion of your required item, “property size”).  But that doesn’t capture the way the light plays across the carpet in the family room, or the shine of the granite on the kitchen countertops.  There’s pretty wallpaper inside, along with a Brian Westbrook (he’s our favorite Philadelphia Eagle!)-themed room with a life-size decal of Brian (who really should stop playing because of his concussions, we worry about him).  Four bedrooms and a finished basement, which is great for company (we have lots of friends and relatives who want to see us, aren’t we lucky?).  And several bathrooms, because we like to pee.  We’re going from a townhouse property of less than .02 acres (is that even a size?) to one that’s half an acre.  There’s a stand of woods behind the house and a jungle gym.  But feel me, have you ever bought something just because it’s pretty?  And close to a Pottery Barn?  Because 6 Henley is right behind the new Brinton Lake Shopping Center, with a Pottery Barn (my spiritual home), Williams Sonoma, and Coldwater Creek!  Yummy!

You asked about “other property owned in the area.”  We don’t own any other real estate, either here or anywhere else, other than the townhouse we currently live in that we’ve put on the market with the agent who sold the last two units on the street, and hope to sell shortly.  It uploaded to the MLS over the weekend and we’ve had two showings today already- is that good?

You asked about “increase/decrease in commuting.”  6 Henley is 8-10 minutes further south along Route 1 than where we are now.  Kemuel’s commute will be 8-10 minutes longer, which is pretty much what it was back before 2007, when we lived in Wynnewood.  You didn’t know us then because we had no mortgage.  We have no mortgage right now, FYI, and haven’t for about ten years, but we *HEART* 6 Henley Court so much we are willing to take one on!  (What does that tell you about how much we love our new home?)

You asked us to write you about our “increase/decrease in family size.”  Well, my husband and I are 49 and practice rigorous birth control (thanks for asking!), but if I turn up pregnant, after I call my dead parents and the Easter bunny, you, Wells Fargo, will be next on my list to notify about the miracle baby!!

Okay, that’s all I have for now, Wells Fargo.  You’re great to listen, usually only our friends and our followers on Facebook and Twitter spend this much time paying attention to what we say.  Have a great day!

Fondly,

Linda Falcão & Kemuel Ronis

Of course this is NOT the actual letter we sent to Wells Fargo- I didn’t think they would have a sense of humor about the whole thing, and we really needed the new house, having sold our old one at that point so we wrote them a very bland letter stating, among other things, that we did not plan to change our family size.  We got the loan, and after it was good and closed I filed a Fair Housing Act complaint with HUD, who is currently investigating, not only this claim, but apparently lots of others involving various lenders charged with lending discrimination.

I took a lot of satisfaction in writing the above letter – and it got a lot of laughs from my friends and family – and I hope you too. But the truth is that I felt genuinely humiliated and demeaned to have to discuss, with a total stranger, whether my husband and I were going to have more children or not.  I didn’t then, and don’t now, think it’s any of their business.  In addition to the illegality issue, it’s just icky.  Would you want to talk about your own reproductive plans with a stranger, especially one who was going to judge whether they were “acceptable” or not?

So I applaud MomsRising for shining light on the issue of maternal housing discrimination and HUD for investigating illegal activities.  I hope you’ll sign the letter to HUD now to send a strong message that investigation into discriminatory home lending practices against mothers needs to continue to be a top priority.

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against in any form of housing (as a renter, owner, or in trying to get a loan, etc.) due to being pregnant or having children, please share your story with us now.  MomsRising will compile these stories and send them to HUD and the media.   Send MomsRising your story.

Linda Falcão is a mother, civil rights attorney, founder of the youth volunteer organization America Serves, www.americaserves.net, and author of the America Serves Student Journal.

© Linda Falcão  2010


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