The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Housing & Lending

Shelter is a basic human need - and homeownership is a basic key to financial viability. Some of the civil rights issues we look at here are predatory lending, fair housing laws, and homelessness.

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New Report Finds Minority Women More Likely to Receive High-Cost Loans

June 9, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

A new report by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) in partnership with the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) shows that minority women are more likely to receive high-cost home mortgage loans than White women.

In many cases, disparities by race widened as income levels increased. The report finds middle- and upper-income African-American women to be a least twice as likely to receive high-cost loans as middle- and upper-income White women in more that 84 percent of the metropolitan areas examined.  Similarly, middle- and upper-income Hispanic women were at least twice as likely to receive high-cost loans as middle- and upper-income White women in 62 percent of the metropolitan areas studied. 

The study suggests that minorities, especially African-American women, are likely to be affected by foreclosures. NCRC and NCNW recommend that Congress strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, to encourage more prime or market-rate lending to working families and communities.

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NFHA and HUD Announce a Media Campaign on Foreclosure Prevention and Predatory Lending

June 9, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Yesterday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Fair Housing Alliance launched a national media campaign that will inform Americans about how to avoid foreclosure and predatory, high-risk loans (PDF), and how to recognize when they might be experiencing housing or rental discrimination.

The campaign will target low-income and minority communities vulnerable to predatory lending and housing discrimination, including families on the brink of or in foreclosure, looking to refinance their homes, facing eviction, renting homes or apartments, or looking to buy a home for the first time.

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Congress to Cap Interest Rates on Consumer Loans

June 5, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Congress is considering passing a bill that will cap interest rates on consumer loans at 36 percent to prevent lenders from taking advantage of people who rely on these kinds of loans to meet basic needs or to cover unexpected expenses, like car repairs or vital medical procedures, many of whom are minorities and low-income people.

One of the most predatory consumer loans is the payday loan, a short-term loan with high annual interest averaging over 400 percent.  Individuals on a limited income take out payday loans and often find that they can't pay back the loan because of the high interest.   Often they fall into the debt trap of payday loans by taking out another loan because it is the only way to pay back the first loan, accruing heavy fines in the process. 

Payday loan businesses tend to be located in predominantly African-American or Latino neighborhoods. Fifty-five percent of payday loans are taken out by African Americans and Latinos, who together pay over $240 million a year in fees. 

A recent Center for Responsible Lending survey found that nearly three in four Americans support a federal cap on consumer loans at 36 percent.

Visit 400 Faces of Payday Lending, Center for Responsible Lending's website devoted to exposing the effects of payday lending on Americans, for more information.

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Obama Administration to Coordinate Housing Assistance for Gulf Coast Residents of FEMA Trailers

June 3, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The Obama administration said today that it will work with FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to find permanent housing for displaced victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast who still live in hurricane relief trailers. The latest deadline extension for residents to move out of the trailers expired on May 30.

More than 80 percent of people living in the trailers own homes that were damaged by the storms but lack the economic means to finish fixing their properties.  Most sought federal and state grants to pay for the repairs necessary to make their homes livable again, but frequent delays and administrative problems left many of them with no option but to stay in their trailers.

Under the administration's plan, $50 million will be distributed by Gulf Coast housing authorities in the form of new housing voucher rental assistance.  Residents will get more hands-on assistance with transitioning to permanent housing and also have the option to buy their trailers from FEMA for as little as $1.

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New Mortgage Data Shows Recession Hitting Homeowners Hard, Even Those with Good Credit

May 29, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

New Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) data released yesterday shows that foreclosure rates and delinquency rates, or the rate of people who are at least one payment behind in their mortgages but not in foreclosure, increased in the first three months of 2009, even for homeowners with prime loans. 

According to the MBA, there are more prime fixed-rate loans than other types of loans among new foreclosures for the first time since the rise in subprime lending.  Generally, only borrowers with good credit qualify for prime loans.

The delinquency rate for homeowners with prime loans increased to a little more than 6 percent.  In addition, the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process doubled in the last year.  The combined percentage of delinquent loans and loans in foreclosure was about 12 percent, the highest ever recorded by the MBA.

Despite rising delinquency and foreclosure rates, the MBA lobbied aggressively to block an amendment to a foreclosure prevention bill in Congress that would have given bankruptcy judges the ability to rework defaulted home mortgages on family homes to an affordable value. 

Without the amendment, the bill that was passed last week will not help as many homeowners as it could have.  According to estimates by the Center for Responsible Lending and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, the change to bankruptcy law could have prevented up to 1.7 million mortgages from falling into foreclosure.

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New Foreclosure Protection for Renters

May 27, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

You may think that not owning a home will protect you from foreclosure - but an estimated 40 percent of households facing eviction due to foreclosure are renters, not homeowners. Many renters have been evicted from their homes with little or no notice - sometimes with no idea that a foreclosure was pending - after their landlords were unable to pay their mortgages.

But renters now have some protection against eviction under the foreclosure prevention bill signed by President Obama last week. The new law, which took effect immediately, requires the new owners of a property to allow tenants to remain in the home, as long as the tenants pay their rent on time. Renters will be able to stay until the end of their lease, or will get at least 90 days notice if they do not have a lease or if the new owner intends to reside in the home.

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It Costs More to Be Poor

May 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The window of a payday loan store, reading: Fast Friendly Service, $50 to $500, Payday Loans, No Credit Checks, Same Day Service

A payday loan store in Henrico County, VA. Photo credit: Andrew Bain.

Today's Washington Post article, Poor? Pay Up, details how low-income people often end up paying more for basic goods and services - both in money and time - than middle-class people pay for the same items.

For example, in Washington, D.C., where LCCR/EF's office is located, some low-income neighborhoods don't have a supermarket. If you don't have a car, you can either go to a corner store, where you would pay $3.79 for a loaf of wheat bread, or you could take the bus to a supermarket in another part of the city, where you would get that loaf of bread for only $1.19 - but you've wasted hours waiting for and taking the bus to get to the store.

The article also details the problems caused by payday lenders, to whom low-income people often turn if they need money quickly for unplanned expenses such as car repairs, prescriptions, or higher-than-usual utility bills. It's fairly easy to get a short-term loan, but you may end up paying fees and interest that add up to an annual percentage rate of more than 400 percent. In contrast, the average rate for credit cards in the United States is less than 15 percent. Payday lending is currently legal in 37 states.

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Report: One in Five Homeowners Are 'Under Water'

May 13, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

More than one in five homeowners are "under water," or owe more money on their house than it is currently worth, according to a new study by Zillow.com, a real estate research service. Negative equity occurs when the value of a home drops below the value of the homeowner's mortgage. In the past year, average home prices fell 14.9 percent nationwide.

Although historically, negative equity will resolve over time, it can lead to foreclosure when homeowners need to sell or refinance a home in the first few years after a purchase, before they have built up significant ownership equity.

In recent years, many homeowners bought houses with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), which offer a low "teaser" interest rate -- and low payments -- for a set period of time, often two to three years. At the end of the initial period, the mortgage then "adjusts" to the market interest rate, which can dramatically increase the monthly payment account.

Homebuyers who took out ARMs during the 2000s were assured by lenders and mortgage brokers that they would be able to sell or refinance their homes before the interest rate was scheduled to adjust, avoiding the increase in monthly payment. However, when housing values dropped, many homeowners discovered they were not eligible to refinance their mortgages because they didn't have enough equity in the home.


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Former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp Passes Away

May 4, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

Former HUD Secretaries Henry Cisneros and Jack Kemp sitting on a panel

From left to right: Former HUD Secretaries Henry Cisneros and Jack Kemp at a National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity hearing in Chicago in July 2008.

Jack Kemp, former Republican vice presidential candidate and secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), passed away from cancer at his home in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday at the age of 73.

Kemp had a long and distinguished political career, serving in Congress for nine terms and serving as HUD secretary under President George H.W. Bush.  He was also an advocate for civil rights, pushing his party to embrace fair and humane immigration reform, D.C. voting rights, and federal investment in low-income housing.

Along with fellow former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, Kemp co-chaired the bipartisan National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, created in 2008 by LCCREF, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and the National Fair Housing Alliance.   The commission held hearings all over the country to examine the effect that federal enforcement of fair housing laws and the subprime mortgage crisis have had on residential segregation, releasing a report of its findings with recommendations in December 2008.

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