Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The City sues Well Fargo over Reverse Redlining

In an January 8, 2008 atricle, the Baltimore Sun reports that the city is filing suit against Wells Fargo Bank over what the City calims asunfaily markeing subprime mortgages to Black neighborhoods. Click this link for the article.

In a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit intended to stem foreclosures in Baltimore, Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration is suing a leading mortgage provider for what the city says has been a pattern of predatory lending in black neighborhoods.

The lawsuit, which the Dixon administration plans to file today in U.S. District Court, alleges that California-based Wells Fargo Bank sold higher-interest subprime mortgages to blacks more frequently than to whites and that the practice, known as reverse redlining, violates federal housing law.

Though Baltimore's lawsuit does not estimate the financial cost of the foreclosure crisis to the city, the city claims that is has lost tens of millions of dollars - in unrealized property tax revenue, added police and fire protection and legal costs - because of homes abandoned after foreclosure.

What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Wait, wasn't it these very same lenders that were pressured for years by the political powers-that-be to approve sub-prime loans to under qualified applicants? The assertion at the time was that the lenders were discriminating because they were not offering home loan packages 'affordable' to persons of color. Now, the political powers want to play it the other way and say the lenders are racist because they provided these loans to too many persons of color. What are the lenders supposed to do? They are called racist either way.

I am of the mindset where the 'American dream' of home ownership is a privilege. If you don't have the income or assets to prove you can pay a loan off to a lending institution, the loan should not be offered. Folks should not assume that everyone in the nation is financially suited to own a home, at least not in every part of the country. There is not harm in renting a dwelling unit until such time as one is able to take on a viable loan that is backed by credible evidence of financial responsibility.

This is not to say that a few bad apples couldn't have spoiled the bunch. But, the majority of lenders have a responsibility to ensure that bulk of the mortgages are backed by real / tangible proof that the loan can be paid. If not, the loan should not be offered with the assumption the housing market will continue to climb upward. It won't. The term 'irrational exuberance' comes to mind.

Income and race in lending do have correlations...but the majority of the lenders are (or at least should) be looking at proof of assets and history managing credit...not race, in determining if they will loan money to an individual. I believe lenders tried to operate under these principals. Unfortunately, they are often pressured to lend to persons with questionable credit for fear of being accused of redlining. If finances, assets, and credit management were the strict guilds for lending, we wouldn’t be in this mess financially.

Remember, over 65% of the city of Baltimore is African American. So saying that the majority of sub-prime loans are being issued to persons of color might just as well be a function of the social demographics in the Baltimore market. Just a hunch.

Zig B Free said...

I understand the pervious commentor's point but I would just like to say that in a lot of cases sub-prime loans were just another version of predatory lending which has been shown to target minority neighborhoods.

To make the case of reverse redlining could be difficult since the city is majority black and the poorer neighborhoods of the city tend to be black as well. So how do you differentiate a lending institution that is targeting poor neighborhoods to specifically black neighborhoods? I think the mayor's point to this is that neighborhoods that had the highest percentage of black residents bore the worst of the subprime crisis.