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By The Skanner News
Published: 18 July 2007

Higher income does not protect Blacks and Hispanics from receiving mortgage loans with above-market rates, a new study by a group pushing for reforms to lending laws says.
The report, released last week by the Washington D.C.-based National Community Reinvestment Coalition, concludes that in 2005 Blacks in 179 metropolitan areas were at least twice as likely as Whites to receive expensive loans.
In the Seattle area, African Americans were more than two and one half times more likely than Whites to receive a high-cost mortgage. Seattle ranked 151st out of the 179 cities studied in this report. The researchers looked at thousands of mortgages and found that 36.4 percent of the loans African Americans received were considered "high cost mortgages," compared to 13.9 percent of the loans Whites received.
The study was based on an analysis of nationwide mortgage data collected by the Federal Reserve for the most recent year available.
The report, which analyzed 2.3 million high-cost loans in 380 metro areas, also concluded that while the disparity among Blacks and Whites existed at all income levels, it was more severe at higher income levels, rather than lower ones.
The study found that middle-class and upper income Blacks in 167 metropolitan areas were at least twice as likely as Whites with similar incomes to receive loans with high rates. By comparison, there were 70 metropolitan areas where low-income Blacks faced a similar likelihood of receiving above-market rates.
Low-income Blacks in all areas were more likely to have pricey loans than Whites with similar incomes.
The report uses the Federal Reserve's definition of high-cost loans: mortgages whose rates are at least 3 percentage points above Treasury securities. That definition includes most sub-prime loans given to people with weak credit records.
The study points to the persistence of discrimination against minorities, said John Taylor, chief executive of the Washington-based group, which has been pushing hard this year for legislation to restrict what it says are widespread abusive lending practices.
"Certainly discrimination has not disappeared in this country, by any stretch," he said.
The Mortgage Bankers Association criticized the report, saying it focuses on race instead of factors that lenders consider when deciding whether to make loans, such as borrowers' debt levels and the amount of money they can provide as a down payment.
"This study ignores these other important credit variables in order to make a broad generalization and seeks to identify an overly simplistic answer to a much more complex issue," Jay Brinkmann, the trade group's vice president of research and economics, said in an e-mailed statement.
The NCRC report found similar trends among Hispanics. Middle class and upper income Hispanics in 75 metro areas were at least twice as likely as Whites with comparable incomes to sign up for high cost loans, compared with 10 metro areas for low-income Hispanics.
The report also found much smaller disparities between Asians and Whites.
The study found the worst disparities in Charleston, S.C.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Omaha, Neb.; Milwaukee and Springfield, Mass.
The study comes as ratings agency Standard & Poor's said last Tuesday it is considering cutting the credit rating of more than $12 billion in bonds backed by risky home loans as more borrowers miss payments. These bonds — sold by some of Wall Street's biggest banks — represent a principal source of financing for the housing market.
S&P said it may slash its rating on 612 classes of mortgage-backed bonds issued by such banks as Citigroup Inc., Bear Stearns Cos., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co., and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Dozens of sub-prime lenders have since declared bankruptcy as banks have become more reluctant to put money behind risky mortgage loans.

—The Associated Press

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