Friday, September 12, 2008

Local Investment Banker Serves Global Housing Foundation

By Joe Hessert
Staff Columnist

Mark Zimmer spent years working on Wall Street before moving to South Berwick after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Now he works primarily from his home and in addition to his time spent following the market he is on the board of directors for Global Housing Foundation, a non-government organization which has recently started a joint effort with the UN to provide the opportunity for working poor in third world countries to finance and purchase their own homes.
“There are people working in these countries and all of their money is going to rent for houses that are worse than the ones they’d be living in if they were unemployed and provided housing,” said Mark. “The goal of the Global Housing Foundation is to set up an infrastructure and lending opportunities for these people so that they are encouraged and rewarded for working rather than punished.”
To do that, the Global Housing Foundation has worked with local and international banks to offer interest rates that match the rates of homebuyers in America – half of the interest rate that these people would otherwise be paying for homes. “The goal is to get these people the opportunity to stop spending their money on rent and to start investing it in a home that they can have for the rest of their life,” said Mark. “It will actually cost less for them to buy a home than it would for them to continue paying rent in the slums.”
Most of the work the Global Housing Foundation has done so far has been geared toward Central America, but they are in the process of setting up a European branch of the company and hope to start offering similar programs to working poor in Africa. Mark said that if this program is as successful as he expects, he’d love to look into helping Maine’s struggling workers in a similar way.
“To qualify for the Global Housing Foundation’s program, third world residents need to meet three criteria,” said Mark. “They have to be living in the slums, they have to be working, and the lease has to be in the woman of the house’s name. This is to ensure that if something happens with a marriage falling apart that the children will still have a place to live.”
“There are 1.3 million working poor in the world right now,” said Mark, “The UN set millennium goals in 2000 and by 2010 we hope to have resettled the majority of them in homes that they own and are paying off themselves.”
Asked how it feels to be a member of such an important and exciting global project, Mark said it was amazing. “It’s amazing that you can add value to people’s quality of life on such a broad scale,” he said. For more info on the Global Housing Foundation you can contact Mark by email at:
Caption: Mark Zimmer stands on the patio behind his South Berwick home. (Weekly Sentinel photo)