Bias persists in Texas home loans

Bias persists in Texas home loans

Latinos and African-Americans in five Texas metro areas — including Longview — were more likely to be denied a conventional mortgage loan when compared with non-Hispanic whites, a new analysis has found.

The review of millions of federal records by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that redlining — the practice of charging more or denying services such as loans and housing based only on reasons related to such things as race, national origin and religion — has persisted in 61 metro areas around the U.S.

Beyond Longview, the review of data from 2015 and 2016 found modern-day redlining occurring in Corpus Christi, the Killeen-Temple area, the San Antonio-New Braunfels area and Waco.

In Longview, Latinos were nearly two times as likely to be denied in 2016 compared to whites, the analysis found. White applicants received 7.5 times as many loans as Latinos, even though there are only 4.2 times as many white people than Latinos among the region’s population. Longview’s population is 15 percent Latino and 64 percent white.

That finding came as a surprise to three Hispanic real estate agents in the city, who said last week they have not seen such discriminatory practices.

Estela Garcia, an agent with Suzanne Cook & Co., said she was "surprised" when she watched a television news report based on the analysis. That reaction was echoed by Socorro Vanzini of Coldwell Banker Lenhart Properties.

"I have some banks that I deal with," she said. "They always give loans to my people. Of course, you are going to have to make a certain amount of money."

Garcia, Vanzini and Rodrigo Castillo of Re/Max First Choice Real Estate all speculated Hispanics might be denied loans based on income, credit or other factors, not ethnicity.

"I have not run across anything that would be discriminatory," Castillo said. But he added he does not know how often his Latino clients have been denied.

In the San Antonio-New Braunfels area, Latinos were 1.5 times as likely to be denied in 2016 compared with whites. White applicants received 2.3 times as many loans as Latinos, even though Latinos make up 54 percent of the local population. Black applicants were more than 1.5 times as likely to be denied in 2016 compared with whites.

In Corpus Christi, Latinos were 1.5 times as likely to be denied in 2016 compared with whites. In Waco, Latinos were nearly 3 times as likely to be denied in 2016 compared with whites.

In the Killeen-Temple area, African-American applicants were nearly 2.5 times as likely to be denied in 2016 compared with whites.

The yearlong analysis, based on millions of records, found a pattern of troubling denials for people of color across the country, including in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia.

Fair housing advocates and researchers in Texas said they’re not surprised by the findings, which were independently reviewed and confirmed by The Associated Press.

John Henneberger, co-director of Texas Housers, an Austin-based nonprofit that works on housing issues, said in the 40 years he’s worked in this area, he has not seen redlining go away.

"It causes deterioration of neighborhoods," he said. "It has never adequately been addressed."

Several nationwide studies in recent years have found that San Antonio is one of the most economically segregated cities in the country.

San Antonio’s history of redlining has contributed to its economic segregation, said Christine Drennon, an associate professor of urban studies at Trinity University in San Antonio. That economic segregation has resulted in little investment in neighborhoods populated mostly by Latinos and African-Americans, some of which remain entrenched in poverty, she said.

In Corpus Christi, a survey that was part of a report last year assessing fair housing in the city found more than 17 percent of respondents indicated they had been turned down for a mortgage. While a majority believed they were turned down because of their credit scores, some believed they were denied for discriminatory reasons.

Henneberger encouraged community groups concerned about possible redlining in their areas to review the federal data and talk to financial institutions that might have questionable lending practices when it comes to minority applicants.

Government has "a vital stake in ensuring that there’s a healthy availability of mortgage credit in all parts of their jurisdictions," he said.

The Texas Workforce Commission, whose civil rights division conducts investigations of violations of the Texas Fair Housing Act, said that in the past three fiscal years, nearly 80 discriminatory financing complaints were filed in the state. The commission is one of several places in the state where housing complaints can be filed.

"Any form of housing discrimination prohibited under the Fair Housing Act is a concern to (the commission). We conduct statewide training and outreach activities to apartment associations, housing organizations and individuals as a way of educating everyone on their rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws," said agency spokeswoman Lisa Givens.

— This story includes reporting by Ken Hedler of the News-Journal and Juan A. Lozano of The Associated Press.

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Marcia Mosley