Bridgeport-based People’s Bank hopes to draw attendees of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Homeownership Tour to its own homebuyer education program.

By November, about 100 low- to middle-income Connecticut families should be on their way to buying a home, and an additional 300 should be armed with information that will help them purchase a home in the future and avoid predatory lending.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People earlier this week in Hartford kicked off a series of seminars aimed at educating Connecticut families on the process of buying a home. The seminars will hit three other counties in the state – New Haven, Fairfield and New London – and are open to people of all races or ethnicities, according to Hakeem Webb, chairman of the series, which has been dubbed the Homeownership Tour.

The series will serve a dual purpose: to educate prospective homebuyers, but also to determine the black community’s homebuying needs through a survey.

“There are many opportunities with regard to homeownership right now, and we want to ensure that people of color are in the position to take advantage of those opportunities, not be taken advantage of,” said State Conference President Scot X. Esdaile in a prepared statement.

The seminars are designed to educate attendees on subjects like predatory lending, financial literacy, credit repair and funding resources. And after the sessions, organizers will check in with attendees to see how far they have gone toward buying a home and to see if they need more help, and will direct them to places to go for more free education and screening. The Homeownership Tour is being sponsored by Fannie Mae and will include presentations by Northeast Utilities, Bank of America, People’s Bank and Wachovia Bank.

Bridgeport-based People’s has its own 12-hour homebuyer education program, and hopes to channel in some people from the NAACP’s program, which is not as detailed.

The results from the survey also interest the bank, according to Valencia Tat-Jackson, vice president of the bank’s Affordable Lending Group. The results will help the bank identify what potential homebuyers really need, and will help the bank tailor its service. And eventually, when the people who attend the seminar are ready to buy a home, People’s hopes to be the mortgage provider for many of them.

“In the end, hopefully we’ll be able to help people when they’re ready,” Tat-Jackson said.

Competition Needed

The three-hour Hartford program included panel discussions with state Sen. Bob Duff, chairman of the Housing Committee; Rep. Kenneth Green, chairman of the Select Committee on Housing; Webb, who is also a principal at Waterbury-based National Christian Financial Advisors; and representatives from Hartford Neighborhood Housing and the Urban League of Greater Hartford. Calvin Price, vice president for community development at Liberty Bank, moderated the discussion.

After the education portion of the program, attendees have the opportunity to ask questions, meet with vendors and take the survey. Webb said he hopes more mortgage brokers will participate in the upcoming sessions. Some who initially agreed to come to the seminars and meet with attendees have dropped out, and he speculated that might be because of the large banks sponsoring the events.

“I think when they saw some of the sponsors, it might have slowed down the enthusiasm,” he said.

But the more mortgage brokers who attend the sessions, the better it will be for the consumers, Webb said.

“[Competition] is what’s going to really get rid of predatory lending,” he said.

Based on research from the NAACP, Webb said he expects a total of 400 families to attend the four sessions.

“To make this a successful event, the more people who come out, the better,” he said.

The first seminar was held at the North End Senior Center in Hartford. Other sessions are scheduled for Oct. 4 at St. Luke’s Church in New Haven, Oct. 11 at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk and Oct. 29 at Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Mashantucket.

Webb said he hopes that next year the NAACP will hold sessions in all eight Connecticut counties.