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Banks have a simple answer when confronted with high denial rates for Hispanic mortgage applicants: You don’t know the whole story.
So many factors go into consideration of a mortgage, refinance or home equity loan that bank officials say it is difficult to find two equally situated applicants, one white and one Hispanic, to prove discrimination.
If information like debt-to-income ratio, collateral, credit history, credit scores and cash for down payment were available, more meaningful comparisons would be possible. Consumer advocates and fair housing coalitions across the country have argued for this data to be included, without personal identifying information, in the reports required by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Lending institutions have lobbied hard against such disclosure, citing privacy concerns, and have prevailed.
Nonetheless, officials from St. Mary’s Bank provided the Granite State News Collaborative with some of that information for the applications by Hispanic/Latino borrowers it denied in 2020. Of the 25 applications denied, eight were withdrawn or approved but not accepted. The rest failed for these stated reasons: debt-to-income ratio (3); collateral (5); incomplete application (4); credit history (4); insufficient cash (1).
“From our perspective there is no bias by any of the lenders here or underwriters,” said Jan Raymond, executive vice president and chief lending officer at St. Mary’s. “The important thing to keep in mind is we would have to do a lot more research into each of these to actually determine what happened in them. We haven’t reviewed anything in detail and there’s so much more to it. Is it an ethnicity thing? I would say absolutely not.”
TD Bank spokesman Matthew Doherty pointed to the bank’s programs and policies designed specifically to benefit diverse communities.
“TD Bank is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in providing access to all of its financial products and services. At the time of application, we are required to evaluate the customer’s financial information in accordance with banking regulations and credit-based standards,” he wrote in an email.
“Importantly, TD Bank does not deny mortgages or any other products or services based on race, ethnicity or membership in any other protected class. Furthermore, we are continually developing and expanding programs and policies designed to positively impact our customers’ financial health and the diverse communities we serve.”
Paul A. Turner, senior vice president for consumer lending communications at Wells Fargo, also pointed to new initiatives that demonstrate a commitment to more diversity in lending.
He cited the bank’s Dream.Plan.Home.SM mortgage that was launched in February 2021. It is designed for consumers with income at or below 80 percent of the area median income where the property is located.
The bank also has “made considerable progress on two diverse lending commitments,” he said, working with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the NAACP, among others. As a result, he said, through 2020, “these efforts helped 188,460 Hispanic families and 72,758 African American families become homeowners through more than $67 billion in mortgage originations since the launch of the commitments in 2015 and 2017.”
To download any of the data presented in these articles visit our data library www.collaborativenh.org/data-library These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative as part of our race and equity project. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.