The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is taking steps to strengthen enforcement and regulation in the aftermath of a housing crisis that has disproportionately affected minority communities.
At a recent panel hosted by the Brookings Institution, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez noted recent studies showing that Black and Latino borrowers were offered subprime mortgages at much higher rates than similarly qualified White borrowers.
“I have seen this crisis and its devastating impacts from the local, state and national levels, and perhaps the biggest lesson learned as a local and state official was that federal oversight and enforcement is absolutely critical to ensuring responsible, non-discriminatory lending,” said Perez.
Through its Fair Lending Unit, the Civil Rights Division has been working to address these issues. Perez said the unit has opened “50 matters,” which includes 18 investigations, and has “identified large, mid-size and small lenders as targets of enforcement efforts and those targets include national, regional and local actors.”
According to John Payton, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund (LDF) who also spoke on the panel, residential segregation also played a key role in the housing crisis. “Decades ago, we had segregated housing markets and laws enforced by federal government and state that required people to live in certain areas. The effect was to have completely different housing markets, which today has an impact on property value and health of the communities. It creates communities that exist to be preyed upon,” he said.