The city needs an “in-depth review” of private mortgage lending after consultants found indications of discrepancies in approval rates for white and black applicants.
“There appears to be – and I say ‘appears to be’ – a discrepancy in amount of loans generated and approved based on race,” said Walter Haglund of Urban Design Ventures.
“The only way that we will know is an in-depth analysis,” Haglund said.
The city hired Haglund’s company to conduct an “Impediments to Fair Housing” analysis, which the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development requires periodically from cities receiving money from its Community Development Block Grant program.
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As a recipient, the city is required to “affirmatively further fair housing” and, if impediments are identified, “It’s incumbent upon the city to document how we address those analyses each year,” said Wilma Conyurs, federal program coordinator with the city’s Community Development office.
That documentation goes to HUD in an annual performance evaluation, she said.
The impediments report (nando.com/17m) says that a lending analysis should be done by an outside agency, and Haglund suggested contacting a university about having it done as a graduate-student project.
“I know that graduate students have participated with the (community development) department and the city in the past,” he said.
“The only way you can really get involved in the data and understand the data to see if there is a pattern of discrimination is to actually do interviews of individuals who have applied, to do testing, et cetera,” Haglund said.
“It does seem really important for us to find a way to do that,” City Councilman Steve Schewel said when the report came for council approval last week. “If indeed there are these racial discrepancies as you all suspect.”
To produce the impediments analysis, the consultants reviewed the city-county zoning regulations and land-use plan, demographic data, mortgage records, real-estate publications, responses to a residents’ survey and interviews with social-service agencies and other local organizations involved in low-income housing.
Schewel said he was pleased to see that Durham’s housing pattern became more integrated, in terms of racial and ethnic mixing, between 2000 and 2010, but found the increases in median home price from $126,000 to $179,000, and in monthly rent from $657 to $787, “worrisome.”
“As real estate values continue to escalate ... we are pricing more and more people out of the market,” he said.
Community Development Director Reginald Johnson said his department has not asked for funding to do an in-depth study, but City Manager Tom Bonfield said he could “have some conversations” about the impediments report with the city’s human relations department.
Haglund’s report described seven other areas where Durham fell short in “affirmatively furthering”:
▪ Lack of affordable rentals;
▪ Lack of affordable homes for sale;
▪ Concentrations of minority populations in central and eastern parts of town;
▪ Lack of bilingual education on rights under the Fair Housing Act;
▪ Inconsistent use of the Fair Housing logo and disclaimer in housing advertisements;
▪ Lack of housing accessible and affordable for the disabled;
▪ City regulations and policies that restrict development of multi-family, group and supportive-care housing.
The report suggests remedial measures, such as supporting low-income housing construction outside the minority-concentration areas; financial assistance to households overburdened with housing expenses, and to low-income minority households moving outside concentration areas.
Also, public seminars on the Fair Housing Act, monitoring real-estate publications for the HUD Fair Housing logo and disclaimer; rehabilitating existing housing stock to make it accessible; revising the city-county development rules and policies on housing subsidies.
The current report is an update of an impediments analysis Urban Design Ventures completed for Durham in 2012. Haglund said the latest analysis found little change in the intervening three years.
“The one change was that city-county planning was working on revisions to the zoning ordinance which we pointed out in 2012,” he said. “Those were being accomplished.”
The 2015 report does state that the city has continued earlier support for home-buying by providing second mortgage financing for low- and moderate-income households, and carried on existing programs to get information out on fair housing rules and policies.
Conyurs said an update was done this year in conjunction with a long-range consolidated plan for using HUD housing grants that was also due for an update in 2015.
“The city was off track slightly” with impediment reports, she said, “so we did an analysis of impediments in 2012 to be compliant and because our five-year comprehensive plan was now due for 2015, and to get on that five-year track, we thought it was a great time to update the 2012 so it would be consistent.”
Read the report at nando.com/17m