Freddie Mac puts on a show for US Hispanics

MCLEAN, VA: In an effort to reach the nation's rapidly growing Hispanic population with homeownership information, Freddie Mac has teamed with nonprofit Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina (CRA-NC) to air a Spanish language educational soap opera in regional markets.

MCLEAN, VA: In an effort to reach the nation's rapidly growing Hispanic population with homeownership information, Freddie Mac has teamed with nonprofit Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina (CRA-NC) to air a Spanish language educational soap opera in regional markets.

The 13-episode "edutainment" mini-series Nuestro Barrio (Our Neighborhood) couples educational information on homeownership with storylines from a typical soap opera (or telenovela).

"Part of our mission is to expand homeownership opportunities in America," said Patti Boerger, PR director of Freddie Mac, which provided funding for the series. "[Nuestro Barrio] is addressing some homeownership myths and providing facts."

Nuestro Barrio began its run in Miami/Fort Lauderdale on October 1. It also ran in Austin, TX; Dallas/Fort Worth; San Antonio; Houston; Phoenix; and Miami/ Fort Lauderdale in September. The company's participation is recognized at the end of episodes by its logo and an announcement that the series is "made possible by Freddie Mac."

In 2005, the homeownership rate was 69%. Only 49% of Hispanics own their homes. However, Hispanics are the largest growing population group in the US. According to the Census Bureau, Hispanics accounted for 49% of the nation's total 2.8 million population growth between July 2004 and July 2005. Freddie Mac hopes that with accurate information, the existing homeownership gap will close.

"The US housing market is changing," said Boerger. "So I think that the mortgage industry has the challenge of finding ways to reach new homebuyers."

Dilsey Davis, director of media advocacy for CRA-NC and the director/producer of Nuestro Barrio, came up with the "edutainment" idea while watching a Chilean telenovela two and a half years ago.

CRA-NC has used grassroots methods to reach out to the Hispanic community: handing out fliers, posting announcements in local shops, and enlisting other nonprofits to help with publicity.

So far, the response has been positive. Davis has received calls and e-mails from viewers who think it's an "awesome idea."

"People can identify themselves within the stories," she adds.

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