Well-off blacks denied loans more than low-income whites

A Dayton Daily News investigation: In all income levels, blacks are more likely than whites to be rejected for home loans and are more likely to be sold a high-cost, subprime loan.

DAYTON — More than four decades after racial discrimination in home lending was outlawed, lenders in the Dayton area deny a much higher percentage of loans to blacks than whites, even when income levels are comparable.

Blacks are also more likely than whites to be sold a high-cost, subprime loan.

A Dayton Daily News examination of 2008 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data found significant racial disparities exist at every income level.

For example, upper-income blacks from an eight-county area in 2008 were twice as likely as whites to be denied home purchase or refinancing loans, the newspaper found.

More than 46 percent of black applicants who earn at least $71,760 a year had their applications rejected, while 23 percent of white applicants in that income range did.

In fact, upper-income blacks in those eight counties were denied loans more often than even low-income whites.

Experts say the effective end of credit makes economically distressed neighborhoods more vulnerable to foreclosure, abandonment and blight.

“It’s like redlining is being made legal again,” said real estate agent Veronica Bedell-Nevels, referring to a once common practice in which lenders refused to make loans in black communities. “And you’re like, ‘Am I dreaming?’ This seems like something from the ’70s.”

Lenders, however, say race plays no role in their decisions about whether to grant loans.

Housing advocates and even some who were denied loans are reluctant to blame overt racism.

But in some neighborhoods, home lending has effectively been turned off.

Fred Steed lives in one. In 2008, lenders denied nearly 80 percent of the loans in his census tract along West Third Street, which is 99 percent minority.

In August, it happened to Steed. Although he is well into the upper-income level, he was turned down for a $35,000 refinance loan with Fifth Third Bank.

“I was very upset about it,” said Steed, director of community health for the Montgomery County health district. “I’ve had a relationship with Fifth Third ever since they’ve been here. I’m gainfully employed. I’ve got a credit rating of 820.

“So if they treat me like this, God only can have sympathy for others who really need this help.”

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