Report accuses Trump of ‘systematically undermining’ fair lending regs

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee released a lengthy report Monday accusing the Trump administration of systematically undermining 50 years of fair housing progress.

The report, released by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), accused the administration of ignoring the government’s fair housing obligations as established in the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

“More than 50 years after Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, access to housing remains unequal,” Brown said. “This is not an accident. This is by design. The inequities we see today are the legacy of government policies and systemic discrimination on the financial system that made it difficult for Black and brown households to achieve access to equal housing opportunities.”

The Black homeownership rate is currently 47%, while the Latino homeownership rate is 51%, according to the report. The white homeownership rate, meanwhile, is 71%. The inequity, the report said, is a lingering after-effect of “decades of government policies and discrimination in the financial system that blocked Black and brown households from achieving equal housing opportunity.”

Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which resulted in “modest gains in homeownership” for people of color, but the report said that “predatory lending” still targeted minority borrowers.

“The 2008 financial crisis eviscerated gains in homeownership an wealth that Black and Brown communities had fought hard for over the 40 years since the Fair Housing Act was passed,” the report said. “Now, the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which are again disproportionately hurting communities of color, threaten to set these same communities back further.”

The report accused the administration of rolling back enforcement of regulations meant to ensure borrowers had fair access to mortgage lending and “proposed changes to the housing finance system that will make mortgages more expensive and harder to get, particularly for borrowers of color.”

The report specifically blasted the Trump administration for rolling back an Obama-era rule – the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation – that required municipalities that received federal funding to examine housing patterns for evidence of racial bias.

Brown isn’t alone in condemning the administration’s decision to gut the AFFH rule. The National Association of Realtors also blasted the move when it was announced.

“The viability of our 1.4 million members depends on the free, transparent and efficient transfer of property in this country, and NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities,” NAR President Vince Malta said.

“Congress and the Trump Administration must immediately reverse course on harmful policies that would further disinvest communities and allow housing discrimination to go unchecked,” Brown’s report said.

The report called on federal regulators, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to:

  • Restore the Fair Housing Act to full strength by reinstating rules to prevent discriminatory housing policies and require data collection to identify mortgage discrimination
  • Expand tools for state and local governments to evaluate obstacles to housing equality in their own communities
  • Provide strong fair housing and lending oversight
  • Strengthen banks’ commitments under the Community Reinvestment Act

The report also called on Congress to pass legislation that would invest in fair housing enforcement and redesign the housing finance system so that it better serves borrowers of color.

Published at Tue, 22 Sep 2020 11:00:08 +0000

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