WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (9/28/10)--Credit unions as an option for mortgages and credit union merger trends are topics addressed this past weekend in The New York Times and a weekly publication from the Washington Post. Both newspapers turned to Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economists for analyses. Home buyers have turned to credit unions for years as a less expensive alternative for mortgages, said the Times (Sept. 24). CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel told how easy it is to find a credit union. "Most people don't know this, but if you're walking down the street, you'll probably be able to find within one to two miles a credit union you can join," Hampel said. He noted that the nation's nearly 7,500 credit unions rarely offer subprime products to their 90 million members. Because of their not-for-profit status, credit unions "have no incentive to talk the member into some wild mortgage," he said. Credit unions in 2007 granted $60 billion in first-time loans, which include first mortgages and refinancings. Last year the total was $94 billion--up 50%. So far this year, credit unions have granted $31 billion in mortgage loans. Hampel also pointed out that credit unions are "just as sophisticated as a community bank but not crazy like Wall Street." The article also referred to mortgage programs of Sidorsky Financial CU, Stratford, Conn.; Affinity FCU, Basking Ridge, N.J., and Municipal CU, New York. Capital Business, a weekly local business publication launched by the Washington Post, discussed the merger plans of Navy FCU, Vienna, Va., and USA FCU, San Diego (Sept. 27). CUNA Senior Economist Mike Schenk talked with the Post reporter for the story, providing background on merger trends. The article cites CUNA statistics: the number of credit unions in the U.S. dropped to 7,445 this year from 10,316 in 2000, largely because of mergers.