Hispanics often given higher-cost loans: study
Associated Press
09.13.2007
By Martin Crutsinger
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/200989
 
WASHINGTON Applicants for home mortgages were turned down for loans at a slightly higher rate in 2006 than the previous year, and significant disparities continued to exist between white mortgage applicants and minority applicants, the government reported Wednesday.
A separate report released Wednesday by industry and advocacy groups found that Hispanic home buyers in six markets with large Hispanic populations were often steered into mortgages with high interest rates even though they qualified for more affordable loans.
In an annual look at mortgage practices among the nation's lending institutions, federal regulators found the denial rate for all home loans was 29 percent last year, up from 27 percent in 2005.
The report, released by the Federal Reserve and other regulators as required by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, found minority borrowers received loans with higher interest rates or other increased charges in greater percentages than white applicants.
Controlling for various factors, the report found 30.3 percent of the loans for home purchases by blacks were higher-cost loans compared with 17.7 percent of loans for whites.
The gap of 12.6 percentage points in the number of blacks getting such high-cost loans compared with whites was higher than a 10-percentage-point gap in the 2005 survey.
Advocacy groups said the new report, the most comprehensive look at mortgage practices done each year, showed discrimination was continuing and that these problems were contributing to the current crisis in subprime lending, where a growing number of families are losing their homes due to rising foreclosure rates.
The government data showed there was an increasing use of "piggyback" mortgages in 2006 in which strapped borrowers obtained a second mortgage to cover the cost of the home they were purchasing because they could not afford a larger down payment.
The survey found 22 percent of home purchase loans in 2006 involved piggyback loans, an increase from the levels in 2004 and 2005.
"Irresponsible lending practices have placed working families, minorities and more recently an increasing number of middle-income borrowers at risk of losing their homes," said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coa-lition, a nonprofit group that promotes equal access to credit and financial services.
"In the housing boom of recent years, lenders layered risk upon risk in a rush to outperform their peers," Taylor said. "Not only are individual consumers harmed ... but also the contagion effects from the current foreclosure crisis are spreading into many other aspects of the economy."
Officials at the coalition said their analysis of the new mortgage data showed that areas of the country with the worst delinquency problems were in the Midwest, especially Ohio, Indiana and Michigan; the south Atlantic region,;the Gulf Coast; and portions of Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
The report on Hispanic mortgage borrowers was released Wednesday by the National Council of La Raza and the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.
"Too many Latinos have been ignored by some lenders and shuffled into expensive loans by others, even when they have good credit," said Janis Bowdler, senior housing policy analyst with the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization.
The report examined lending practices in Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
The report also said that many Hispanic families have unique circumstances such as multiple wage earners in one household and a lack of banking history that unfairly disqualify them from getting certain mortgages.
As a result of these factors, "Hispanics are now shouldering a disproportionate burden in the default and foreclosure rates across the country," said Timothy Sandos, president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.
The report recommends that mortgage brokers develop automated systems that take into account other factors to determine loan eligibility, including a record of timely rent payments and utility payments. And it recommends a public relations campaign that warns Hispanic communities of predatory lending practices.
The report also urges policymakers to create a national, centralized system to set minimum federal and state guidelines to be implemented at regulatory agencies.
● Cox News Service contributed to this report.