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Does Affordable Housing Really Exist? Not According to NY/NJ Area Residents
NEW YORK, Sep 19, 2002 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ --

Washington Mutual Releases Eye-Opening Survey, Hosts Celebrity-Studded Walk-a-Thons for Affordable Housing

It's no secret that housing prices in New York and New Jersey are spiraling out of control. According to a recent survey conducted by Roper ASW on behalf of Washington Mutual, two-thirds of New York and New Jersey residents (67%) say they are deeply concerned about the affordability of housing. This issue affects all income levels and includes both renters and home-owners.

According to the survey, top affordable housing issues among NY and NJ residents include:

     -  Half of the current home-owners in NY and NJ say they only live in
        their community because they can afford it and would opt to live
        somewhere else if they could, but right now many of them are just
        fighting to stay afloat.

     -  More than eight in 10 home-owners say purchasing their home at today's
        market prices rather than the price they paid would be difficult for
        them, and 54% of owners say it would be very difficult for them.
        Renters are in the same boat; more than 8 in 10 renters in NY and NJ
        saying it would be somewhat difficult for them to find something
        affordable and 69% say it would be very difficult.

     -  Half (48%) of residents say they are using a higher percentage of
        their income to pay for housing than they did just five years ago.

     -  More than seven in 10 (72%) say kids being raised in their communities
        today will not be able to afford housing there when they are young

     -  Only four in 10 believe there is at least a fair amount of housing
        available for seniors in their communities.

     -  The problem isn't just a concern for the poor.  Almost as many
        residents with incomes of $50,000 or more are concerned about the
        affordability of housing as the percentage who are making less than
        that amount.
To raise money and awareness for affordable housing, Washington Mutual is underwriting four concurrent "Walk On Home" walk-a-thons in New York and New Jersey on Sunday, Sept. 29th.

"It is a dramatic statement when eight in ten current home owners feel it would difficult to purchase their home at today's prices," said John Benevento, Washington Mutual Group Manager. "These findings clearly quantify how universal this problem is. We're hoping to mobilize walkers throughout New York and New Jersey to raise money for local housing organizations who are working to find a solution."

From vacations to savings account contributions, the belt straps are as tight as they can get for 50% of all area residents. And, 67% of residents in their homes for less than two years say they have had to sacrifice contributions to savings accounts for such things as retirement and college. Almost all income levels are being forced to give up things they want and need, with only those making $100,000 or more a year reporting significantly fewer compromises to their lifestyle.

In addition, 74% say their community offers "a lot" or "a fair amount" of housing options for people in upper income brackets, but only 59% feel there is a fair amount of housing for the middle class. The situation becomes significantly worse for lower income residents with just 32% believing there are adequate housing options for them.

With four of the top 10 hottest housing markets located in the metro area, this is an issue that affects a tremendous number of people. According to the National Association of Home Realtors, the four NY-NJ areas in the top 10 include:

     -  Nassau/Suffolk, NY #1
     -  Atlantic City, NJ #3
     -  New York City, NY #4
     -  Middlesex/Hunderdon County, NJ #10
"We are in the middle of an affordable housing draught in the NY and NJ area," said Benevento. "When Washington Mutual's consumer bank arrived in the New York area this spring, we promised our customers that we would be active members of this community. Through our walk-a-thons, we're trying to fulfill this promise by raising funds to support the local groups who've been working to combat our region's housing crisis."

About Walk On Home:

On Sept. 29th, Washington Mutual will host four concurrent walk-a-thon events in Manhattan, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. The Walk On Home events will raise money for approximately 150 local affordable housing organizations that serve the New York and New Jersey area. These organizations provide housing assistance in a variety of ways including rehabilitating houses in under-developed neighborhoods, providing housing and financial counseling for new and first-time home owners, subsidizing rental units for lower-income families, combating housing discrimination, relocation assistance and providing housing for seniors and people with special needs. Washington Mutual is completely underwriting all of the events to ensure that 100% of all proceeds raised through the walk-a-thon will go directly to these organizations to fund their individual initiatives and projects.

Each walk-a-thon route will be approximately 5 miles, and at the conclusion of each, block parties await participants as they finish their trek. Food, games, raffles and a free concert by some of the entertainment industry's top names, including such renowned artists as Jewel, Patti LaBelle, Wyclef Jean and Joan Osborne, will greet participants as they cross the finish line. In addition, all participants will be entered into a sweepstakes for the chance to have Washington Mutual pay three months of their mortgage or rent payments -- up to $10,000. One walker from each location will receive this Mortgage/Rent Paydown.*

    "Walk On Home" locations will include:

    -  Central Park to Morningside Park in Manhattan -- musical entertainment
       includes Wyclef Jean and the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
    -  Heckscher State Park in Long Island -- featuring Patti LaBelle and the
       Long Island Philharmonic
    -  Croton Point State Park -- with guest performers Jewel and Diana King
    -  Branch Brook Park in North Newark -- with special performances by Joan
       Osborne and the Blind Boys of Alabama
Volunteers can sign up for their neighborhood walk-a-thon at any of the Washington Mutual's 130 financial centers in New York and New Jersey or online at http://www.walkonhome.com . When registering, volunteers can look through a directory of participating charities to choose the local organization they want to walk and raise money for. And the walk-a-thon is not limited to walkers -- persons who rely on a wheel chair or similar mobility aids can complete the trek as well. For those who cannot join Washington Mutual on September 29th, but still want to help, they can sponsor a walker or make a donation to the affordable housing organization of their choice.


This study was conducted by RoperASW via telephone, among a sample of 1,602 adults 18 or older. The sample was drawn from New York City, Westchester County, Northern New Jersey, and Long Island, with approximately 400 respondents from each location.

About Washington Mutual Inc.

Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM) with a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual is a national financial services company that provides a diversified line of products and services to consumers and small-to-mid-sized businesses. At June 30, 2002, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries has assets of $261.28 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,500 consumer banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking, consumer finance and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are available at http://www.wamu.com .

For a copy of the survey results, please contact Pattie Hallock at 212-213-7233.

* THE SWEEPSTAKES: No purchase or Walkathon sponsorship required to enter or win sweepstakes, but must participate in the walk-a-thon. Employees of Washington Mutual, Inc. or other Washington Mutual companies, and immediate family members and persons living in the same household of such employees, are not eligible. See Official Sweepstakes rules for additional eligibility requirements and details, available at all local Washington Mutual financial centers.

                    MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here
SOURCE Washington Mutual Inc.

CONTACT:          Derek Aney of Washington Mutual Inc., +1-646-521-3327; or
                  Pattie Hallock of MS&L, +1-212-213-7233, for Washington Mutual Inc.

URL:              http://www.walkonhome.com
Copyright (C) 2002 PR Newswire.  All rights reserved.