Bank Redlining Increasing and Wealth Plummeting in Minority Communities

Seattle 1964

Seattle 1964

New Orleans        The Federal Reserve report on the continued decrease in lending to African-American and Hispanic families is unambiguous.  In 2013, 4.8% of total home loans were to African-Americans, 7.3% were to Hispanics.  In 2012, the numbers were only marginally better at 5.1% and 7.2% respectively.  As recently as 2006, before the real estate meltdown the numbers were almost 50% higher when combined, exceeding 20% of the total loans.

The other thing that is clear in the total failure of the Obama Administration to provide any real relief to so many homeowners is that citizen wealth for these same families has plummeted, putting more families underwater, owing more than the value of the loans in black and brown communities. While home values have declined about 10% in white communities, values have dropped by 20% in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and 26% in Hispanic-majority communities. It is virtually impossible not to conclude that banks are neither loaning, nor are they providing relief in such communities. If that’s not redlining, then let’s come up with a new name for it, because whether you say tomATo and I say toMAto, it’s all the same thing.

Reading the Wall Street Journal on this issue the only other thing that is crystal clear is that everyone responsible wants to point the finger somewhere else, usually at the government, rather than their own behavior, and muddy the water as much as possible, rather than moving to fix the problem with more rational policies and programs. The banks want to claim that they are raising credit scores higher than required because they don’t want to pay billions of penalties for their criminal behavior in robbing and fleecing both rich and poor. Does that sound like taking responsibility for your crimes and endeavoring to do better? Hardly!

And, how can blaming the lack of lending or relief to minority neighborhoods on these homeowners when every indication is that the roots of the securitization scandals were deeply set in speculation and largely white, middle-income and suburban communities? Count on the head of the Mortgage Bankers’ Association to voice the racism inherent in these new, whitewashed policies. David Stevens, their CEO, says the hammering of minority communities is “just simple math…tightening the credit has an unusually high impact on minority borrowers.” Stevens and the MBA are the lobbyists for bankers and banking in Washington, DC, so this is scary. They seem not to have gotten the memo that underlies the Federal Reserve report required by the Community Reinvestment Act and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which is the fact that they are supposed to be proving that they are doing better and doing everything possible to increase lending in minority areas, not just show up, and sign the attendance list.

Home ownership for lack of any better plan in place is still the largest source of wealth for lower income and minority communities so this level of inaction, blame shifting, and rationalizing puts the heavy fist of bankers on the scale to further increase the shift of inequality between the rich and poor, towards the rich. The underlying racism insures that lower income, minority communities by damn stay that way.

It’s not simple math. It’s simple racism, and that’s what the Federal Reserve is supposed to be stopping, not enabling, and it’s what these reports are supposed to be exposing for action, not simply noting in passing.


1 thought on “Bank Redlining Increasing and Wealth Plummeting in Minority Communities

  1. Alejandro Becerra

    The recently released HMDA data validated what many of us already knew was happening in the mortgage industry. Conventional mortgage lending to African-American and Hispanic families has been precipitously decreasing as the market has been in recovery. However, faulting David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, for not advocating vigilantly enough for access for minority borrowers is not accurate and oversimplifies the complex issues that have contributed to what we now believe is a crisis in mortgage lending.

    Since becoming head of the MBA, Dave Stevens has been one of the few national housing leaders who have consistently voiced the importance of ensuring access to affordable and sustainable mortgage credit, particularly for minorities and other creditworthy households. On a more personal basis, I can say that in just about every possible public forum that I have attended in the nation’s capital, David Stevens has repeatedly voiced that because of their rapidly growing population, minority households, especially Hispanics and Asians, will be the driving force behind housing demand for the next several decades. Stevens is well aware of the math and is therefore concerned that tight credit disproportionally affects lending to minorities and is an issue for the entire market.

    The real problem stems from the false notion that policies designed to facilitate homeownership opportunities for minorities were the primary reason for the housing crisis. A review of the facts behind the
    housing debacle would demonstrate that toxic mortgage products fueled by Wall Street and sold to unwitting borrowers, the majority of whom could have qualified for a conventional mortgage, were the real driver of the problem. The challenges facing the mortgage industry are complicated but fixable. Now is not the time for haphazard scapegoating, but rather an opportunity for all stakeholders to work together to create and implement real solutions that are both effective and sustainable.

    Alejandro Becerra

    Director of Research, NAHREP

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