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Feb 23, 2019

The red line: Racial disparities in lending

Co-produced with PRX Logo

This episode originally was broadcast Feb. 17, 2018. We’ve updated with news about the impact the story has had since it aired.

Forty years ago, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, requiring banks to lend to qualified borrowers in blighted neighborhoods. Together with the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968, the legislation aimed to eliminate the practice known as redlining. But it is full of loopholes: It doesn’t apply to mortgage brokers or cover internet banking, and it allows banks to claim credit for loaning to white applicants moving into historically black neighborhoods – supposedly lifting up low-income areas, but also enabling gentrification.

Today, a new epidemic of modern-day redlining has crept quietly across America. The gap in homeownership between African Americans and whites is now wider than it was during the Jim Crow era.

Our reporters analyzed 31 million government mortgage records and determined that people of color were more likely than whites to be denied a conventional home loan in 61 metro areas, including Atlanta, Detroit and Washington. That’s after controlling for a variety of factors, including applicants’ income, loan amount and neighborhood.

No city better exemplifies the trend than Philadelphia, where so-called up-and-coming neighborhoods abound – and where African American applicants were nearly three times as likely as whites to be denied a home loan. That’s where reporters Aaron Glantz and Emmanuel Martinez tell the story of two loan applicants – one black, one white – whose experiences raise larger questions about who gets to buy a home, and who doesn’t, in America.

Read: For people of color, banks are shutting the door to homeownership & Gentrification became low-income lending law’s unintended consequence & 8 lenders that aren’t serving people of color for home loans


This week's show was reported by Aaron Glantz and Emmanuel Martinez, produced by Katharine Mieszkowski and Laura Starecheski, and edited by Deborah George.

Our production manager is Najib Aminy. Our sound design team is Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, who had help from Kaitlin Benz.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.