By Tashi McQueen, AFRO Political Writer,
Report For America corps member,
The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) has threatened to take legal action against Councilwoman of District 14, Odette Ramos, for alleged false and defamatory claims against NACA.
NACA provides services that many impoverished communities and lower-income families need like homeownership assistance and foreclosure prevention services. Consumer reviews fall on both sides of the fence.
Ramos has questions about the non-profit organization’s operating practices. Her concerns recently led her to initiate a Buyer Beware notice for Baltimore residents.
Odette Ramos has been the councilwoman of District 14 since 2020 and prior to that, she was active in and around the community working for former Senator Barbara Mikulski and as president of the Abell Improvement Association among other initiatives.
In a statement to the public Ramos spoke on the nature of her concerns.
“I called into question NACA’s business practices during a City Council hearing on April 26th. The leader of this organization tried to incite a riot, insulted me – not knowing about my years of advocacy for justice in housing – and I fought back,” she said. “The people he had with him were not from Baltimore and were obligated to be there by the nature of their ‘volunteer’ requirement in the hope that one day they could get a house.”
Ramos said she’s heard more since that explosive session.
“Since that hearing, I learned a lot more about the questionable practices of this nonprofit out of Boston. Potential homebuyers looking for assistance to purchase homes pay a membership and then “volunteer” with the organization,” she said. “The participants that I have talked with since the April hearing reported still waiting over a year to purchase a property, strung along by NACA. Other reports are of shady loan deals and bad customer service. These conventions are a way to recruit, but they do not deliver.”
Ramos “urged residents who are looking to purchase a home to seek homeownership counseling from HUD-certified housing counseling agencies in Baltimore City.”
NACA responded saying they are HUD certified. They also issued Ramos a cease and desist order in a three page letter from The Fierberg National Law Group.
“You appear willfully uninformed and reckless about stating the truth about NACA – encouraging the Baltimore Convention Center to terminate its agreement with NACA – and the opportunities of working people seeking to obtain homeownership on the best terms available in this country,” said NACA administration in a public statement to Ramos. “Of most concern is that your defamatory comments will hurt those who need and deserve affordable homeownership, including many of your constituents.”
NACA Founder and CEO Bruce Marks said in a statement, “this is entirely fueled by her personal political agenda, regardless of the damage it caused by attempting to deny her constituents and everyone in the Baltimore region the opportunity to become homeowners with unbeatable terms.”
“The verifiable facts easily prove the inaccuracy of her statements,” Marks stated. “We will not tolerate her false and defamatory comments nor will we allow her to sacrifice her constituents’ future for the sake of covering up her failure to act in the best interest of those she was elected to serve.”
Still Ramos is unmoved.
“I received the letter from NACA’s lawyers dated Sept. 1. I have consulted with my legal team. I stand by my Buyer Beware notice issued Aug. 31 and I will not be silenced,” said Ramos in a statement. “It is my job as Baltimore City Councilwoman to provide information to residents so they can make good decisions.”
She included a list of other housing services residents can acquire including Bel-Air Eddison Neighborhoods, Druid Heights Community Development, and the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council.
Patricia Lockette expressed her agreement with Ramos’ actions and shared her experience under NACA’s Facebook post about the Cease and Desist order.
“I was qualified for 2 years, submitted everything they asked for, and each time they would ask for the same information over and over again,” said Lockette. “Once I finally said enough is enough I went to a real estate agent and 2 months later I’m closing on a house! All they do is every 6 months have you pay membership fee and credit report fee.”
“The membership is paid every Jan 1 and credit report is Intake, credit access and before closing. The program requires your documents and it’s based on the character of the member,” said NACA to Lockette. “We also find that the program is not for everyone. However, we are pleased you were able to obtain a Mortgage. Best to you and your family.”
Jennifer Ogbuagu, 33, is an active member of NACA who has some negative experiences but encourages people to “stick with the program, you gotta stay committed, even though there might be delayed or life circumstances – persistence and hard work is going to pay off.”
“I don’t agree that
] should steer people away from the program,” said Ogbuagu to the AFRO. “She should definitely bring attention to the fact that they need to improve, hire more staff, and need to keep their appointments.”
NACA is scheduled to hold a “Achieve the Dream” event in Baltimore from Sep. 8 to Sep. 12 at the Baltimore Convention Center.
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