Dwelling House Savings and Loan is located by choice in a primarily low-income, African-American neighborhood of Pittsburgh. "This is where the need is," Executive Vice President Robert R. Lavelle told Sojourners. "These people don't have any money, and that's what we're trying to change."
For nearly 30 years, Dwelling House has been offering low-interest mortgages and home improvement loans to customers who, because of weak credit histories or low incomes, are considered to be high risks by other institutions. Inherent in its operation is the belief that home ownership is necessarily empowering, in terms of generating both financial stability and self-respect. Thousands of investors from across the nation share in this belief, giving Dwelling House a secure reserve from which to operate and maintain a five-star credit rating.
While delinquencies are sometimes a problem, Dwelling House does everything possible to ensure that borrowers meet their obligations. "The message that someone cares will give them the hope necessary to tackle their problems in a positive and persevering manner," stated Lavelle. In the same way, if applicants do not initially qualify for a loan, they are given the advice and assistance they need to establish a good credit rating.
The people at Dwelling House also believe in setting an example for the community they serve and so, despite being denied building insurance, they have refused to bar their windows or to arm their guards. They also recently responded to the economic hardships facing borrowers by voluntarily reducing interest rates on mortgages. Through this policy of putting people first, Dwelling House remains an "institution that serves your need, not our greed."
Brigitte Kerpsack was news assistant of Sojourners when this article appeared.