|United Methodists help Korean community own homes|
First-time homebuyers Sung Woo Rhee and Myung Suk Jin
(center) received more than $174,000 in government down-payment
assistance through the Korean Churches for Community Development
Homeownership Program in Los Angeles.
A UMNS photo courtesy of KCCD.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Dec. 12, 2007 | LOS ANGELES (UMNS)
"Sang-hee's" dream of home ownership had some major roadblocks: she
was a single mother in a low-income job, and she faced a language
The high-risk, subprime adjustable rate mortgages offered in the past
few years were the light at the end of tunnel for Sang-hee (who did not
want to be identified) and millions like her. That light went out,
however, when the mortgage rates soared and nearly priced her out of her
But she found someone to turn to that literally spoke her own language and spoke it with compassion.
United Methodist Korean Americans Hyepin Im and her
husband, Jin Kim (right), began KCCD in 2001. Joshua Byung An (left) is a
project coordinator for the faith-based organization. A UMNS photo by
Kathy L. Gilbert.
Help came from a nonprofit faith-based organization founded and run by
two United Methodist Korean Americans, Hyepin Im and her husband, Jin
Kim. Korean Churches for Community Development's mission is to help
people like Sang-hee move from poverty to self-sustenance.
Established in 2001, KCCD helps Korean and other Asian-American churches
expand their social services in areas such as affordable housing, job
training and economic development.
"I see this really as a calling, and I have a sure conviction in my
heart that it is God that is leading this effort," said Im, president
and chief executive officer. Im and Kim, executive director, have faced
obstacles, but their work has paid off because today they are "talking
with the big dogs," she said.
Im and Kim convinced Sang-hee not to give up and brought her to testify
in a congressional hearing held by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
They are hopeful she will be able to stay in her home.
Participating in congressional hearings to advocate for "those who are
not on anyone's radar screen" is part of the experience Im and Kim bring
to the table for their mostly Korean-American clients. They have
started partnerships with CVS Pharmacy, State Farm insurance, Freddie
Mac and Fannie Mae, to name a few, Im said.
So far in 2007, they have helped 14 families purchase their first homes
and provided more than $1.19 million in government down payment
assistance and over $2.7 million in first mortgages.
Closing the gap
California and Florida are the leading states in U.S. home
foreclosures, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, which
reported an all-time high in foreclosures during July to September.
Kim said there is a huge gap in the ownership rate in the United States,
especially in southern California, where the median price for a home is
$500,000 while the median income is $50,000 to $60,000.
In Los Angeles, before the federal government will provide assistance, a
person must complete 12 hours of education in homeownership. KCCD is
one of only three agencies in the city that provide that education, Im
"We also provide one-on-one counseling for everyone who goes through our
education session," she said. KCCD assesses their situation and helps
them qualify for a loan and down-payment assistance. "We also provide
handholding throughout the escrow process.
"On average, we save people about $2,000-3,000 in excess fees that are
just placed on the unsuspecting consumer who is signing documents," said
Im. "They don’t know what they are just signing away, so we are able to
go over the documents. On average for each client, we do about 100
e-mails back and forth. It’s a very labor-intense service."
Spending that much time builds trust, and Im said that is why people
come to them for help when they are suddenly in a foreclosure situation.
According to the 2000 census, the four communities that are below the
U.S. national rate in income are Latinos, African Americans, Native
Americans and Koreans, Im said. Koreans also have the second-highest
language barrier problem in the United States.
"When you have low income in any kind of crisis, you’re going to be
impacted," she said. "At this point, we are the only Asian agency in the
country that is providing any foreclosure assistance," Im said.
Im said KCCD has been the product of "many miracles" starting with her parents, who are in ministry.
"We are constantly having to almost invent
the wheel or be pioneers because there is no other group even in the
Asian-American community like us."She grew up seeing her
parents help immigrants with housing, education, social services and
other needs, and all with very limited means.
-- Hyepin Im
"I saw a wonderful model," she said of her parents.
She admits that sometimes at night, she gets a little scared because of
all the people who are depending on her and looking to her for answers.
"We are constantly having to almost invent the wheel or be pioneers
because there is no other group even in the Asian-American community
like us," she said.
Im ticks off the things she sees as potential obstacles stacked against
her: she is a young female in ministry but not ordained and Korean
American. She said even though her Korean is not perfect she has no fear
of "walking boldly into any room and taking risks."
Anytime she feels doubt, she says, she retraces her steps to see if what she is doing was her idea or God's.
"Each step of the way, when it's very scary and it's very stressful, God has always brought help."
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Hyepin Im: "The church is where they go for help."
Jin Kim: "There is a huge gap in home ownership rate in the U.S."
How the subprime mortgage crisis works
United Methodists pray for Korean hostages
Korean American Methodist leaders hold summit
Igniting Ministry ads reach Koreans in United States
Korean-American United Methodists have gifts to give, bishop says
Korean United Methodists celebrate 100-year history
Korean Churches for Community Development
Korean American ministries
United Methodists In Service