Marion County mortgage data shows lower homeownership, especially among Blacks and Hispanics

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More than 50 years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, Marion County, Indiana’s highest populated and most racially diverse county, not only has a lower rate of homeownership than the rest of the state but has been experiencing a decline in homeownership driven by a drop in Blacks and Hispanics buying houses of their own, according to a report by the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

The 44-page report, “The State of Fair Housing in Indiana Report: Mortgage Lending in Marion County 2018-2020”  was released from the FHCCI Monday. It includes a detailed analysis of the public data pulled from the information lenders are required to provide to the federal government under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

Among the findings is that the homeownership rate in Marion County overall is 54%, which is substantially lower than both the statewide rate of 69% and the national rate of 64%. Moreover, homeownership has fallen 11.0% in the past decade even as the number of housing units in the county increased from 2010 to 2019.

The decline in homeownership is reflected primarily among Blacks and Hispanics. From 1970 to 2019, the percentage of Black homeowners has dropped from 48.9% to 33.8% while Hispanic homeownership has tumbled from 61.1% to 38.8%.

Comparatively, for the same time period, the rate of homeownership among whites has remained largely unchanged at roughly 64%. Also, Asians recovered from a previous decrease in homeownership to reach 46% in 2019, pretty much equal to where the rate was in 1970.

“It is very disappointing to see that homeownership has not improved over the past nearly 50 years now (since the passage of the Fair Housing Act),” Amy Nelson, executive director of the FHCCI, said. “The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 and yet here in Marion County we have seen very little improvement in lending during that time period.”

Within the past three years of 2018, 2019 and 2020, mortgage origination rate has actually increased to the highest point in a decade from 46.3% in 2011 to 55.0%. However, the FHCCI report shows not all are benefiting from the uptick in lending.

Data shows that of the 74,015 mortgages approved by the top 50 lenders in Marion County from 2018 to 2020, 76.5%, were for whites. Comparatively, 12.7% of the mortgages were made to Blacks, 4.6% to Hispanics and 5.9% to Asians.

The report links the disparity to “generations of intentional, discriminatory housing practices that denied mortgage loans to Americans due to their race, color, ethnicity, and sometimes religion.” Such practices included steering people of color into less desirable neighborhoods, solidifying poverty by the creation of project-based public housing, and “flooding of neighborhoods of color with toxic and unsustainable subprime mortgages” which often led to foreclosures.

Moreover, redlining, the practice of placing certain races, ethnicities and religions to specific neighborhoods, is continuing.

As the report highlights, the loss of homeownership impacts generations. Individuals and families blocked from mortgages cannot access the “critical wealth-building tool” of homeownership and neighborhoods cannot flourish from having owner-occupied houses.

The report compiles and takes a dive into the lending information from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Stats are provided on the number of mortgage applications, denials and originations and are then broken down by racial and ethnic groups.

It concludes that Marion County has a “mortgage discrimination problem” and calls upon federal regulators to uphold fair lending practices and hold lenders accountable. In addition, the report also asserts the need to make the lending data available to the public so communities can know what their mortgage lenders are doing.

“We really wanted to put together a report that was for the user,” Nelson said. “There’s so many reports that get issued each year that are for lenders. We wanted a report that a user who is working, taking care of their kids, to pick up could flip to the section and see how their particular lender is performing.”

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