Minorities hit hardest by US housing crisis

Updated: 2007-11-26 17:31

So long as home prices rose, the subprime market seemed a positive example of how to increase home ownership, but as the housing market weakened this year, many began to question whether the loans were fairly priced.

In September, the Federal Reserve released a study that found 52.8 percent of African-Americans got a high-cost home loan when they refinanced in 2006, compared to 37.7 percent of Latinos and just 25.7 percent of whites in the same year.

A similar study by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known by its acronym ACORN, in September found the same pattern even when income was equal.

According to ACORN, upper-income blacks were 3.3 times, and Latinos 3 times, more likely than upper-income whites to have a high-cost loan when purchasing a home in 2006.

"I keep hoping one day I'll do a study where race doesn't play a part," said Liz Wolff, author of the ACORN study.

"But clearly, there is a racial bias," she added.

Jay Brinkmann, vice president of research and economics at the Mortgage Bankers Association, disagrees.

He believes that if researchers could account for all the factors that go into pricing a mortgage, they would find race doesn't matter.

"The pricing is based on risk, not race," said Brinkmann.

The American dream

The answer may be decided in court.

In July, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, filed a discrimination suit against 11 of the country's largest lenders, saying minorities are steered toward high-cost loans more often than whites, even after all risk factors are considered.

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