Reveal: For people of color, banks are shutting the door to homeownership

Reveal, February 15th, 2018: For people of color, banks are shutting the door to homeownership


In the biggest redlining investigation in decades, Reveal just exposed modern day redlining against communities of color in at least 61 cities. In Philadelphia, black applicants there were almost three times as likely to be denied a conventional home purchase loan as white applicants. And this discrimination isn’t just a few banks, nearly two-thirds of mortgage lenders are still discriminating against clients of color.

The yearlong analysis, based on 31 million records, relied on techniques used by leading academics, the Federal Reserve and Department of Justice to identify lending disparities.

It found a pattern of troubling denials for people of color across the country, including in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Antonio. African Americans faced the most resistance in Southern cities – Mobile, Alabama; Greenville, North Carolina; and Gainesville, Florida – and Latinos in Iowa City, Iowa. In Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, Reveal found Blacks, Latinxs, Asians and Native Americans were significantly more likely to be denied a home loan than whites.

“It’s not acceptable from the standpoint of what we want as a nation: to make sure that everyone shares in economic prosperity,” said Thomas Curry, who served as America’s top bank regulator, the Comptroller of the Currency, from 2012 until he stepped down in May.

Yet Curry’s agency was part of the problem, deeming 99 percent of banks satisfactory or outstanding based on inspections administered under the Community Reinvestment Act, a 40-year-old law designed to reverse rampant redlining. And the Justice Department has sued only a handful of financial institutions for failing to lend to people of color in the decade since the housing bust. Curry argued that the law shares part of the blame; it needs to be updated and strengthened.

“The Community Reinvestment Act has aged a lot in 40 years,” he said.

Since Curry departed nine months ago, the Trump administration has gone the other way, weakening the standards banks must meet to pass a Community Reinvestment Act exam. During President Donald Trump’s first year in office, the Justice Department did not sue a single lender for racial discrimination.

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