Op-ed By Senator Vincent Hughes
The practice of redlining, which segregated communities and prevented minorities from achieving home ownership as their version of the American Dream, appears to be alive and well in our city and many communities across the nation.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 should have eliminated these discriminatory lending practices, but the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) pointed to Philadelphia as a case study for unfair practices in modern-day redlining. The most damning example of the inequality is the fact that roughly the same populations of African Americans and non-Hispanic whites live in the city, but African Americans were 10 times less likely to receive a conventional mortgage loan in 2015 and 2016.
Drilling down even further, some of the greatest disparities in lending were in Point Breeze, Francisville, Brewerytown, and other traditionally African American communities that are rapidly gentrifying. The CIR also found that banks placed nearly three-quarters of their branches in majority white neighborhoods. Analysis showed that African American and Latino loan applications were more likely to be denied than white loan applications in the same neighborhoods, even when income and other factors were comparable.
The banks, and the discriminatory practices they employ that prevent minorities from purchasing a home, are intolerable. What’s more shameful is that of the 31 million mortgage records examined in the report, Philadelphia was identified as one of the largest problem areas. This problem, however, extends beyond Philadelphia. Data showed that black applicants were turned away at significantly higher rates than whites in 48 cities. Latino applicants were more likely to be turned away in 25 cities; Asians in nine; and Native Americans, three.
I have been working with federal, state, and local officials to get to the bottom of this issue. Attorney General Josh Shapiro has opened an investigation into these discriminatory practices, Treasurer Joe Torsella is reviewing the banks accused of redlining, and the Department of Banking and Securities, headed by Secretary Robin Wiessman, is determining if new regulatory tools can help end these practices.
The federal government’s help is also needed. That’s why U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and I penned a joint letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking the Department of Justice to immediately investigate the allegations in the CIR report. We are still awaiting a response from Attorney General Sessions.
In the city, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has led efforts of City Council to raise awareness of the issue and to ensure that financial institutions doing business with the city are not engaging in this type of activity.
The long and ugly history of housing discrimination must end. Everyone deserves a fair shot to own a home and accumulate personal wealth. To do that will take a team effort. I want to thank Senator Casey, Attorney General Shapiro, Treasurer Torsella, Secretary Wiessman, and Councilman Johnson for their commitment to ending redlining in Pennsylvania. The fight will continue.
In the meantime, if you believe you’ve been a victim of mortgage discrimination, call 1-800-441-2555, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or file a complaint at www.attorneygeneral.gov/discrimination.