Monday, June 04, 2001

Blacks rejected more often for mortgages

Even with high incomes, loan refusals greater than for whites

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A newspaper report says blacks in Ohio have a 33 percent greater chance than whites of being rejected for home loans.

        It also says blacks in Franklin County are twice as likely as whites to have mortgage applications turned down, and that the more they earn, the wider the gap grows.

        The report, published Sunday in The Columbus Dispatch, was based on an analysis of nearly 4 million applications for mortgages in Ohio from 1995 to 1999 contained in federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records.

        The analysis showed 11 percent of white applicants in the county were denied home loans, compared with nearly 21 percent of blacks.

        But among those who earn more than $60,000 annually, about 6 percent of whites and 16 percent of blacks were rejected in the county.

        Cuyahoga County, the state's largest in terms of population, had the greatest disparity among counties with more than 800 black home loan applicants. Three black applicants there were denied for every white applicant.

        Butler County came the closest to equality. Blacks there were rejected at a rate 1.2 times that of whites.

        Lenders, authorities and families interviewed by the newspaper said the main reasons for the higher mortgage denial rate for blacks were subtle discrimination in lending, socio-economic differences between blacks and whites, and credit histories and formulas.

        Fred Parker, president of the Columbus branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the disparity should cause outrage.

        “We should be ticked,” he said. “We're in 2001 and certainly we live in a more diverse society. Equality has been talked about and talked about. ... It's essential that corporate Columbus embraces that everyone should be treated equal.”

        Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said all Americans should be dismayed by the racial mortgage divide.

        “Lending institutions and banks need to take a leading role in advancing housing and home ownership communitywide on an equal basis,” he said.

        The president of the Ohio Bankers Association said he rejects any notion of intentional discrimination.

        “I do not believe there is overt discrimination going on in the banking industry today,” Michael Van Buskirk said.

        “Bankers do not make money unless they are making loans. It's not in their interest to discriminate.”

        Bankers say studies indicate blacks as a group tend to have poorer credit histories and fewer assets than whites, and that those factors, not skin color, determine whether a loan is approved.

        “These numbers are distressingly bad,” said Hazel Morrow-Jones, an associate professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University.

        “We already have a significant racial divide and if we keep this up, its going to get worse. We'll all live in these homogeneous clusters. The more we don't talk to each other and see each other every day, the less we will have in common.”

        In the past 10 years, no Ohio lending institution has been sanctioned by the Federal Reserve or other regulators for discriminatory lending practices.


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