The Justice Department launches a program to prevent Kan’s unfair lending practices.

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Despite no recent reports of redlining in Kansas, the US state attorney’s office is seeking to prevent unfair lending practices through a new federal justice initiative. (Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash)

By NOAH TABORDA
Kansas reflector

TOPEKA – A new program in Kansas supported by the US Department of Justice aims to identify and quell the illegal practice of denying a creditworthy applicant a housing loan in certain neighborhoods.

Lenders engage in the illegal practice of redlining by discriminating on the basis of race or national origin. The new initiative will partner with the Housing and Civil Law Enforcement section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas to investigate and ensure fair lending practices.

Sharon Brett, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said a federally-backed program could help Kansas prevent a common practice in cities across the country.

“Thinking of the metropolitan and rural areas of Kansas and how minority populations have been treated in that state over a whole range of issues, it wouldn’t be surprising if redlining is also an issue here,” Brett mentioned. .

The program directs U.S. lawyers to ensure fair lending practices are informed by local expertise and to expand investigations of potential redlining cases beyond traditional banks. The program will aim to strengthen partnerships with financial regulators and coordination with the Attorney General.

During the New Deal era, redlining was institutionalized by the federal government and then implemented by private lenders. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 attempted to reduce these discriminatory practices, but they continue to be implemented by some lenders today.

The negative effects have lasted and are reflected in the large gap in homeownership rates between white and black families, which is larger today than it was before the passage of the Land Act. housing.

“Lending discrimination goes against the fundamental promises of our economic system,” said US Attorney General Merrick Garland. “When people are denied credit simply because of their race or national origin, their ability to participate in the prosperity of our country is virtually wiped out. “

Of the 16 housing discrimination complaints filed with the Kansas Human Rights Commission since July 1, 2020, none have alleged a red line. Stakeholders hope this new effort ensures that the number stays at zero.

“This initiative is important to our community, and we stand ready to work with community stakeholders and the Civil Rights Division to investigate allegations of redlining and, where appropriate, hold those involved in the practices accountable. illegal redlining, ”the acting Kansas lawyer said. Duston Slinkard.

People are encouraged to report any loan discrimination to the Department of Justice.

Housing inequalities were among the topics discussed this year by the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice. Shannon Portillo, co-chair of the panel, said the partnership between the US attorney’s office and the DOJ was a welcome development.

“The practice of redlining not only had a profound impact on the growth of neighborhoods in the mid-20th century, but it continues to shape the distribution of wealth and resources in our communities,” said Portillo. “We hope this initiative will produce positive results for the communities of Kansas.”

Other housing advocates are looking elsewhere to make a difference. Vince Munoz, a housing justice organizer at Rent Zero Kansas, said he was focusing on self-help collective action and efforts to change current state law, which favors landlords over landlords. tenants.

“Without knowing the intricate details of what litigation would look like, it’s good that the federal government is making these efforts, but collective action among tenants will always be needed to create a truly fair housing system,” Munoz said.


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