Race Gap on Conventional Loans

Lisa Prevost, New York Times, January 30, 2014

African-American and Hispanic borrowers have been largely shut out of the conventional mortgage market, according to a new report from Zillow and the National Urban League. Citing 2012 loan data reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, along with results from a Zillow poll of 700 mortgage applicants in December, the analysis found that whites accounted for about 69 percent of all conventional mortgage applications. The share of applications filed by blacks was under 3 percent; Hispanics represented only 5 percent.

Black and Hispanic borrowers are far more likely to apply for low-down-payment loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. About 57 percent of black applicants and 60 percent of Hispanic applicants applied for F.H.A. loans, compared with 30 percent of white applicants.

Access to financing that requires as little as 3.5 percent down is key for minority applicants, who on average have lower incomes and credit scores than whites, said Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist. {snip}

And their conventional mortgage applications are more likely to be denied. One in four black applicants were turned down, compared with one in 10 white applicants, the report said.


And the F.H.A. path can be costly. Although F.H.A.-backed loans offer the initial advantage of less money down, their mortgage insurance premiums are considerably higher than premiums on conventional loans.

Julia Gordon, the director of housing finance and policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, has concerns about what she calls “the dual housing market,” and says she believes the conventional market ought to be making lower-down-payment loans more widely available. “Like all the other separate-but-equal arrangements,” she said, “this is not good for consumers or the market or for taxpayers. We are seeing creditworthy people who should be able to get loans in the conventional market but can’t.”

Ongoing discussions in Washington about how to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should include a commitment to ensure that lenders make credit available equitably, she added.


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