Redlining: Twin Cities banks still restricting home loans in "non-white" areas

Members of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), ISAIAH, and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy stood together outside Minneapolis City Hall to accuse banks of continuing to “red-line” communities of color and refusing to refinance sub-prime mortgages from 2009-2012. Accompanying the activists and researchers were three Minneapolis City Council members — Blong Yang, Elizabeth Glidden and Cam Gordon, all of whom called for something to be done.

“What the report shows very clearly is that big banks like Wells Fargo are redlining communities of color,” said Anthony Newby, executive director of NOC. “The report shows that redlining is alive and well, and in some ways it’s worse than it’s ever been.”

Myron Orfield from the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, which prepared the report, said the study shows that from 2009 to 2012, people in predominantly non-white Minneapolis neighborhoods such as Near North and Camden were three times more likely to be denied loans — regardless of what race the person was who applied for the loan.

“Our report shows that the lack of access to credit continues to plague communities of color in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area,” Orfield said. “The income of the residents doesn’t explain what’s happening. If home loan portfolios of the region’s banks simply reflected the actual income and backgrounds of the people (who) lived in these neighborhoods, more than 13,000 additional loans would have been given to racially diverse and nonwhite neighborhoods in the Twin Cities over the course of the four years between 2009 and 2012. That would have been a 55 percent increase.”

The report found that even middle- and high-income households in mostly non-white areas were much more likely to be denied loans than in other areas, with middle- and high-income people of color in nonwhite neighborhoods twice as likely to be denied loans than in predominantly white areas.

Wells Fargo, the region’s largest lender, accounted for about a fourth of the lending shortfalls in the region’s racially diverse and predominantly nonwhite neighborhoods, according to the report.

“I’m not a mathematician, but I’m mad,” Newby said. “Not only is it immoral and unjust, it’s illegal. We’re outside City Hall today because we believe the city has an obligation to take bold steps to correct this. We cannot and will not believe that banks will fix this on their own.”

Ruby Brown, a NOC board member, also spoke at the press conference. Brown fought for two years against Bank of America for refusing to modify her mortgage. Finally, after a national campaign, she was able to get her home refinanced within a week. “I should not have to go to that extreme to get help,” she said. “To this day I’m fighting for a principal reduction. My house is still under water.”

According to Brown, she became a victim of predatory lending when she was convinced by a member of her church to refinance with a mortgage company that no longer exists, and whose owner cannot be found.

“There have been so many people that have been preyed upon, even within their churches,” she said. “With mortgage companies that have refinanced people with loans that they didn’t understand. I was preyed upon. I’ve been a deacon in my church for 10 years and even I fell victim to this crisis – it’s an epidemic. We are standing here based on knowing it’s an easily fixed situation. It’s just a matter of sitting down and re-doing paper work to get people in their homes.”

Rev. Kelly Chatman, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and member of ISAIAH’s clergy caucus, recalled how the phrase “One Minneapolis” was a frequent message of Mayor Betsy Hodges during her campaign. “We need to stand together and work with the city and the mayor and the solicitor to make sure we are together for One Minneapolis, where all of us have a place,” he said. “Martin Luther King talked about a beloved community. I’ve heard a lot said lately about One Minneapolis. One Minneapolis means everybody has a place, everybody has an opportunity, everybody has access to equity. Standing together. Let’s fight! Let’s make sure we have One Minneapolis and a beloved community for all of Minneapolis.”

While Mayor Hodges wasn’t present at the Thursday (April 10) press conference, three city council members stood outside City Hall with the organizers. Cam Gordon expressed embarrassment that Minneapolis has had such disparities. “We talk about big banks wanting to be partners, we hear about the good work they are trying to do in the community,” he said. Gordon said that Minneapolis needs to rectify the situation. ”We need to say, knock it off,” he said.

Glidden, too, said the report was important information. “We need to review it as such,” she said, expressing the need to not just look at the stats. “It’s about people,” she said.

Blong Yang, meanwhile, who represents North Minneapolis in Ward 5, said, “we have to not just give lip service, but figure out what we can do to address it.”

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    Sheila Regan's picture
    Sheila Regan

    Sheila Regan (sheila [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.

    Bill Sorem's picture
    Bill Sorem