New Group Promises to Lobby for Homeowners' Rights

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By Christine DiGangi

A new homeowner advocacy group started accepting members this month, in an attempt to give a voice to the millions of Americans who own or aspire to own a home. Members of the nonpartisan America's Homeowner Alliance may gain more than an advocate; they will have access to a rewards program with more than 1,000 vendors, like Home Depot, Lowe's and Sears.

"We think it's a potentially valuable opportunity for consumers to come together around a common interest," said Barry Zigas, director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. Zigas sits on the alliance's advisory board.

Serving 75 Million People: The alliance bridges a gap in homeowner advocacy, Zigas said. There are organizations focused on homeowner-related issues, like AARP and the National Association of Realtors, but America's Homeowner Alliance hopes to speak for a more targeted population -- the 75 million homeowners in the U.S.

"In terms of public policy, America's homeowners have never had a collective voice of their own to promote their best interests," said Chairman and Founder Phil Bracken, in a news release announcing the formation of the organization. "It's time to take America's homeowners off the menu and give them a seat at the table."

Homeowners can join the group online. Annual dues are $20, and Zigas said the membership can pay for itself by using the rewards program.

Watching Out For Consumers: The news release outlined the alliance's top priorities, including the preservation of low down payment mortgages and protecting consumers from excess cost and reduced availability of mortgage financing. Through advocacy, education and analysis of homeowner issues, the alliance aims to "protect and promote sustainable homeownership for all segments of America," according to its mission statement.

There's a large group of current and aspiring homeowners who are interested in these issues, Zigas said, and now they have a group dedicated to keeping them informed of pending policy and economic factors that will impact them. Buying a house takes a lot of thought, like figuring out what you can afford, determining your down payment and understanding mortgage rates. Above all, it's crucial to check your credit before buying a home.

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