2001 Public/Private Partnership Awards




Freddie Mac and the City of Boston are pleased to nominate Donít Borrow Trouble as an example of how the efforts of public/private partnerships can substantially improve the quality of life in American Cities.

As efforts of mayors to increase homeownership rates in Americaís cities become more and more successful, abusive and predatory lending practices perpetrated by unscrupulous lenders threaten to undermine those achievements.Homeowners are constantly being bombarded by aggressive marketing campaigns for various refinance, home equity and home improvement products, which may over the long run jeopardize not only homeownersí financial health, but also the stability of neighborhoods. Launched in Boston in December 1999 by Mayor Thomas Menino, Donít Borrow Trouble creates educated homeowners who seek assistance and advice, understand their financial options, and avoid mortgage pitfalls.The program is currently being replicated in 12 additional sites throughout the nation.

Donít Borrow Trouble is a two-pronged program which combines an extensive public education campaign with comprehensive counseling services to help homeowners avoid scams and resolve any financial difficulties they may be experiencing in an informed manner.Messages in the advertising campaign combine a warning about scams along with an instruction to call a toll free telephone number (the Boston Home Center in Boston).Materials include placards in buses traveling through neighborhoods considered at risk; brochures distributed through retail centers, banks and real estate offices; brochures sent to all the cityís homeowners; PSAs run on local TV stations; and billboards at transit stops.

A person who calls the toll-free telephone number is connected to a counselor who has been trained to identify and assist in preventing or resolving predatory lending issues.Depending on the particular problem a caller faces, he is referred to one or more forms of assistance: a credit counseling agency for those overburdened with debt; housing counseling for those looking to purchase or refinance a home; home improvement assistance for those with urgent home repair needs; foreclosure prevention services for those facing imminent foreclosure; or legal assistance for those requiring the advice or assistance of an attorney.

Since December 1999, the Boston Home Center has responded to over 400 Donít Borrow Trouble calls.Of the assistance provided, 33% answered general inquiries about predatory lending practices, 42% provided answers to specific questions about loan terms, 8% helped callers who were behind in their mortgage payments to resolve their problems without further referral, 9% referred callers to foreclosure prevention counseling and 8% referred homeowners to City of Boston home repair programs.A number of callers who were facing foreclosure were able to refinance their mortgages at market rate through the efforts of the Donít Borrow Trouble counselors.

Public/private partnership has been critical to the success of Donít Borrow Trouble.Originally developing separate initiatives, the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Community & Banking Council (MCBC) merged their efforts and secured the pro bono services of a marketing firm, Devine & Pearson, to create the advertising campaign.Funding from MCBC, Freddie Mac, the Fannie Mac Foundation, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association and the Massachusetts Mortgage Association, combined with a substantial commitment of operating funds by the City of Boston, made the launch of the Boston campaign possible.In addition, the city funds services including the Boston Home Center and extensive foreclosure prevention counseling through ESAC (Ecumenical Social Action Committee) and HOME (Homeownership Options for Massachusetts Elders).

With the cooperation and assistance of the City of Boston and MCBC, Freddie Mac has teamed up with the mayors and community groups of an additional 12 cities to establish Donít Borrow Trouble campaigns in Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, Raleigh-Durham (Eastern North Carolina), Syracuse and Washington, DC.For each of the 12 sites, Freddie Mac is providing seed funding, the assistance of a marketing consultant, and a media package of materials to be adapted to the specific needs of each locality.A national web site Ė dontborrowtrouble Ė will provide a link into referral information for each participating city.Freddie Mac is also funding on-site training to be provided by the National Consumer Law Center to prepare members of the local referral network to respond to calls.Local officials are taking the lead in creating local coalitions to collaborate on the campaign, assemble the referral network, raise additional funds and manage the day to day implementation of the program.

Donít Borrow Trouble is the first comprehensive consumer awareness/foreclosure prevention campaign of its kind, bringing together a compelling ad campaign with consumer education, counseling and foreclosure prevention services to address the problems caused by predatory lending.This innovative and creative approach developed in the City of Boston is already being replicated in 12 additional urban areas with the potential of expanding even further.The willingness of each of the partners to respond creatively to a critical issue and work collaboratively toward a solution serves as a model for public/private partnerships in other American cities.