Subprime Communities: Reverse Redlining, the Fair Housing Act and Emerging Issues in Litigation Regarding the Subprime Mortgage Crisis
Albany Government Law Review, Vol. 2, No. 164, 2009
53 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2009 Last revised: 31 Mar 2009
Date Written: February 4, 2009
As the nation struggles to find its bearings in the current financial crisis, and venerable pillars of Wall Street crumble, hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent to shore up the financial system and re-capitalize credit markets. While the eyes of Washington are directed towards Wall Street, there is much talk of the need to prop up Main Street as well, and nowhere is this more apparent than in communities and neighborhoods across the United States that have experienced the first wave of the financial crisis: home upon home of foreclosed properties, abandoned and neglected, their absent silence hard to ignore. Many of these communities are communities of color.
Municipalities across the United States are trying to develop effective responses to the fallout in their communities from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, funding housing counseling programs and foreclosure mediation, and regulating the maintenance of foreclosed and abandoned homes. Another type of intervention that may prove promising is the prosecution of affirmative civil actions, designed either to punish lenders who allegedly engaged in discriminatory subprime lending practices, or those failing to maintain their portfolio of foreclosed homes. A case of the first type has been filed in Baltimore; cases of the second type have been filed in Cleveland and Buffalo. This article is an attempt to review some of the emerging issues in discrimination law, as there is a growing body of lawsuits directed at "reverse redlining": the practice of targeting borrowers of color for loans on unfavorable terms, and an evolving jurisprudence on this issue that departs in some significant ways from more traditional approaches to discrimination in the market.
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