A Look at Who Did (And Didn’t) Get Mortgages in the Boom, Bust, and After

By Dina ElBoghdady September 17 Washington Post

African Americans and Hispanics are still feeling the pain of the housing bust, and they’re feeling it more acutely than white Americans, even all these years later.

The Urban Institute captured the phenomenon in aseries of interactive maps [4] that show the distribution of 100 million mortgages originated from 2001 through 2012, broken down by race and ethnicity. The color coded maps allow users to take a deep dive into localities for a look at mortgage origination patterns.

The maps chronicle what many researchers have already said: Loans to Hispanics and African Americans shot up dramatically when the housing market was red hot and credit came easy, in part because minorities were targeted by predatory lenders. When the housing market unraveled, these groups were positioned to be hit hardest by foreclosures, and they were. Now, African Americans and Hispanics have a tougher time qualifying for loans in a tight lending environment, even if they’ve gotten their finances in order, the institute’s analysis concluded. They said that among first time buyers, the slow economic recovery has generally hurt minorities more than whites and lessened their chances of securing a mortgage.

The share of mortgages extended to African American and Hispanic households fell from 25 percent in 2005, when home prices were close to peaking, to 12 percent in 2012. Basically, minorities entered the housing market at the worst possible time and got shut out at the most opportune time to buy – when home prices and interest rates dropped, according to Bing Bai and Taz George, the researchers who led the analysis and the mapping project.

The pattern holds true at the national level, and in the localities. But different metropolitan areas have different stories to tell. Here we highlight some of those stories based on the Urban Institute’s work, which relies on the most recent information reported to the government by banks and other financial institutions.:

The Bay area, with its booming job market and limited land, bounced back quickly. Home prices took off there after the recession, and even shot past peak levels. The share of mortgages extended to the area’s Asian borrowers climbed from 25 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in 2012. But the share of mortgages going to African Americans and Hispanics borrowers fell sharply. You can see the colored dots on the map shift from yellow and pink (black and Hispanic) to blue and gray (white and Asian), particularly around the San Jose area, after the housing bust. Speaking at the National Press Club Wednesday, John Stumpf, the chief executive of Wells Fargo, mentioned the tight supply of homes in San Francisco, where he lives. In the Bay area, “you come with 27 of your closest friends and you bid the houses up,” Stumpf said.

The Washington area’s housing market held up better than many parts of the country during the bust in part because of the region’s relatively low unemployment rate. Its robust supply of federal jobs and high-paying positions continued to fuel demand for housing. Still, in Prince George’s county, a heavily African-American area, a different pattern
emerges. Between 2005 and 2011, there was a 74 percent decline in the number of loans made to African American borrowers in the county. That’s just mortgages made for purchases, not refinances.

The Detroit region’s housing market still ranks among the worst of the worst by many measures. The area struggled with its own unique problems leading up to the recession and after as the auto industry took a beating. The city filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy [5] in the nation’s history last year after its population plummeted as residents fled to escape rising crime and the deterioration of basic services. In the inner city, which is predominantly African American, mortgage originations are practically non-existent. The number of mortgages in
the Detroit region fell 79 percent for African American borrowers from 2006 through 2012 as lending within the city plummeted. But the mortgages made to white borrowers dropped only 11 percent.