PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced a partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for the launch of DOJ’s new Combatting Redlining Initiative.
Redlining is an illegal practice in which lenders avoid providing services to individuals living in communities of color because of the race or national origin of the people who live in those communities. The new Initiative represents the Department’s most aggressive and coordinated enforcement effort to address redlining, which is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
“Lending discrimination runs counter to fundamental promises of our economic system,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “When people are denied credit simply because of their race or national origin, their ability to share in our nation’s prosperity is all but eliminated. Today, we are committing ourselves to addressing modern-day redlining by making far more robust use of our fair lending authorities. We will spare no resource to ensure that federal fair lending laws are vigorously enforced and that financial institutions provide equal opportunity for every American to obtain credit.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is proud to partner with the Attorney General and the Civil Rights Division on this important initiative,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “Homeownership is the American dream. Lending institutions that make decisions based on the color of a person’s skin, rather than their creditworthiness, violate the fundamental principles on which our Constitution is based. These entities are now on notice that they will be fully prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”
Redlining, a practice institutionalized by the federal government during the New Deal era and implemented then and now by private lenders, has had a lasting negative impact. For American families, homeownership remains the principal means of building wealth, and the deprivation of investment in and access to mortgage lending services for communities of color have contributed to families of color persistently lagging behind in homeownership rates and net worth compared to white families. The gap in homeownership rates between white and Black families is larger today than it was in 1960, before the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
This Initiative, which will be led by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section in partnership with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, will build on the longstanding work by the Division that seeks to make mortgage credit and homeownership accessible to all Americans on the same terms, regardless of race or national origin and regardless of the neighborhood where they live. The initiative will:
- Utilize U.S. Attorneys’ Offices as force multipliers to ensure that fair lending enforcement is informed by local expertise on housing markets and the credit needs of local communities of color.
- Expand the department’s analyses of potential redlining to both depository and non-depository institutions. Non-depository lenders are not traditional banks and do not provide typical banking services, but engage in mortgage lending and now make the majority of mortgages in this country.
- Strengthen our partnership with financial regulatory agencies such as to ensure the identification and referrals of fair lending violations to the Department of Justice.
- Increase coordination with State Attorneys General on potential fair lending violations.
Individuals may report lending discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291, or submitting a report online.