GoWest Foundation Grant Provides “Financial Shot of Courage” to Consolidated Community Credit Union

Josefina Murillo was born in Mexico but grew up near Hood River, Oregon. She has seen hard work and dedication to family and community which is a hallmark of her Hispanic community. But she has also seen their disappointment and their dreams dashed.

“It can take up to 20 years for people to get a Social Security number,” Murillo said.  “Without it, a traditional mortgage loan is simply out of reach. People would work hard and save money, but they lost hope of ever owning a home.”  As the Hood River branch manager for Consolidated Community Credit Union (CCCU), Murillo is now able to bring new hope to the residents of her community.  And that’s thanks in part to a grant from the GoWest Foundation, which provided funding for CCCU to be able to offer innovative and affordable mortgage solutions to low-income communities.

The $90,000 three-year grant, provided to Portland-based CCCU in 2019, was “a financial shot of courage,” according to Larry Ellifritz, CCCU President and CEO. “100% of the funding went to loan loss reserves, and provided the backbone that enabled us to create new affordable housing programs,” he said.

With the support of the grant, Ellifritz said the credit union has funded over $5 million in Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) loans and $10 million in Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) loans.

ADU loans include financing for tiny homes, basement income properties, and cottage cluster development (multiple small units on one commonly owned real property).  Other forms of unconventional housing, including the conversion of large homes into affordable condo units and the creation of housing on narrow lots, were previously considered unbuildable.

ITIN mortgage loans are home loans for people who don’t have and are not eligible to get Social Security numbers.

“Without the grant, we would be five to ten years behind in creating these programs,” adds Ellifritz.  “Grants like these are a catalyst for change and they help shape the identity of the organization.”  An identity that brings pride to CCCU employees like Murillo, who had been a loan officer for Cascade Central Credit Union before its merger with CCCU in 2021.

“It’s exciting to have good news and bring hope to someone who never thought they would own a home,” explains Murillo.  “We’ve started to see a lot of people opening accounts and establishing a relationship with the credit union.  They’re saving money now with the hope of being able to buy a home.  Some have no credit history, so we are helping them establish a credit history. They are getting a credit card and making their payments on time! And I personally have helped credit union members fill out an application for loan pre-approval.”

Murillo said it’s been difficult to watch so many Hispanic community members in Hood River be denied the benefits that citizenship brings.  “They pay taxes.  They are good citizens.  It might take 10-15-20 years for someone to get their citizenship, but all those years of working don’t count towards Social Security or other benefits.”  The ITIN mortgage loan option offers an incalculable benefit to this hardworking community.  “It’s a real game-changer,” said Murillo. “I’ve seen a lot of happy, excited faces.  That’s a good feeling.”

“The GoWest Foundation grant put us years ahead in our ability to serve the Hood River Hispanic community,” said Ellifritz.  “The lasting, more impactful effects of this grant are the community partners we have met, the elected officials we have been able to connect with, and the Hispanic communities we have been able to serve.”

Ellifritz encourages other credit unions to take advantage of GoWest Foundation grant programs that support community building strategies. “You’ll be amazed by the positive momentum you can gain by supporting affordable housing issues.  The benefits we got from our grant were tenfold from what we expected,” said Ellifritz.  “It won’t be easy, and it won’t be a straight line to success, but it will forever change the outlook and mindset of your credit union.  The Foundation is a real jewel of the GoWest family.”

To learn more about applying for a GoWest Foundation grant, connect with the Foundation or reach out to Foundation Strategic Initiatives Manager Nayab Abbasi to learn more about partnering to strengthen credit union impact in communities.

Posted in All Articles, Community Impact, Foundation, Grants, Workforce Housing.