City Council action on home-lending bias urged

February 23, 2018 GMT

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for hearings to look at issues of racial disparities surrounding home lending in Philadelphia, also known as redlining.

Johnson said his action came after a report unveiled by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal revealed national disparities in home loans.

The councilman’s resolution cited when redlining was labeled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelley vs. Kraemer, a case out of St. Louis involving a restrictive covenant on the sell to prospective minority buyers.

Johnson’s resolution indicated the CIR identified the Philadelphia metro area as one of the worst large metro areas where Black residents are denied 2.7 times the rate of White residents overall and 2.1 times as likely for home purchase loans.

“I have always been an advocate for affordable workforce housing and inclusiveness regarding the district in which I represent,” said Johnson, who represent the council’s 2nd District.

“When I saw the report, I was outraged because it’s the year of 2018. As mentioned we are celebrating the 50th year of the Fair Housing Act, and we are still dealing with Jim Crow type-public policies around housing,” he added.

Johnson says he is looking forward to the council hosting a hearing in March. He hopes council members will come up with a “strategy and a plan of action” on how to hold the lenders accountable and to make sure that the “process is equitable and fair for everyone.”

In other council happenings, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker introduced new legislation to prevent the spread of reverse mortgage foreclosures the bill is supposed to “close a loophole by stating homeowners who are not in a payment plan are not delinquent.”

Parker’s legislation states a homeowner, who is in a payment agreement for real estate taxes on their home shall be deemed not in default on his or her real estate taxes.

The bill is looking to match new Philadelphia Department of Revenue regulations that went into effect last week.

“I know all too well the scourge that reverse mortgages have been on certain neighborhoods in the city. Unfortunately, it has been quite common for reverse mortgage lenders to swoop in and pay off any remaining real estate tax balance of homeowners even if they are in a payment plan and not delinquent, and then use this as an impetus to foreclose on these homeowners,” Parker said.

“I want to thank housing advocates, such as Community Legal Services, for first raising this issue, and commend Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin and his team for making the change,” she added.

City Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. also acknowledged their council colleagues that voted in favor of their bill that will bring in a funding increase to the Police Advisory Commission.

Council also honored civil rights leaders in a resolution introduced by Jones.

George Albert Beach, Joey Temple, Rita R. Smith-Wade-El and Valerie Bullock along with several others were honored as a part of the council’s commemoration of Black History Month.