Before the housing bubble burst, before Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued Countrywide for discriminatory lending practices and before the word foreclosure became as common as the word mortgage, if you were a black family in Chicago looking to buy your first home and the rates seemed unreasonably expensive, you might just assume that it was worth it to keep your family from ending up in a precarious housing situation.
“I really wanted this property,” said Edna Williams-Foreman about the first property she was offered with a subprime loan. “I know I’ll pay twice as much, but at least I’ll have it.”
Foreman was interviewed in a 2006 Chicago Reporter article by Kimbriell Kelly, now-editor and interim publisher of The Chicago Reporter. The story found that she was one of hundreds of thousands of potential homeowners targeted by borrowers were three times more likely to be steered into subprime loans and charged higher interest rates and mortgage fees, the investigation found.
This week on the Barbershop Show, we’ll hear first-hand from Kelly how the threads started to unravel after the publication of the story: Citing the Reporter’s work, Madigan issued a fair lending subpoena to Countrywide and then to Wells Fargo, finding that the discrimination fell sharply along racial lines.
According to the Reporter investigation, 50.9 percent of African-American borrowers, 33.8 percent of Latino borrows and only 19.5 percent of white borrowers received higher-cost loans.
Overall, about 200,000 mortgage holders were affected nationwide and, last month, the U.S. Department of Justice settled the state’s suit with Bank of America, which purchased Countrywide for $335 million, though there is still an open case with Wells Fargo.
The Reporter investigation managed to secure possible reparations for about 15,000 people in Illinios. But, besides finding mortgages, minorities and the economically disadvantaged continue to face to hurdles in securing affordable housing. In the last issue of the Reporter, Angela Caputo investigated landlords receiving millions in housing subsidies while their buildings were falling apart and officials were turning a blind eye.
What do you see happening in your community that deserves an investigation? Were you surprised when you heard about the results of the discriminatory lending story? How about the $335 million settlement?
Tune in to our weekly radio show Friday at noon on 89.5 or stream the show live on the web and send us your questions, or answers, beforehand and we’ll read them on air.
-- Yana Kunichoff
© Community Renewal Society 2011