Access to fair credit affects all aspects of an individual’s or family’s life. Unfortunately, African-American borrowers are often steered into predatory, risky loan products, or denied access to any credit at all. To address these issues, on April 29, 2014, the Economic Justice Group co-hosted a round table discussion with the UNC Center for Civil Rights called The Color of Money: Racial (In)equity in Lending in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The purpose of the event was to bring together advocates, academics, and policy analysts in an intimate setting to discuss obstacles to fair credit for African Americans and to brainstorm solutions and strategies.
“While all Americans were hit hard by the Great Recession, Black families were hit the hardest,” said ReNika Moore, Director of LDF’s Economic Justice Group. “Today, African Americans have a median net worth of just $6,314, compared to $110,500 for whites. Fair lending practices are more critical than ever to building wealth and stability in our communities.”
The event featured a full day of robust discussion and fostered LDF’s connections with North Carolina attorneys and other advocates. Leading national and local advocates shared ways to challenge to unfair practices in auto lending, student lending, and mortgage lending. Homeownership is critical for African Americans and low-income families as a means of building wealth, and, as such, it is as a top priority for advocates for equal opportunity. Homeownership impacts far-reaching aspects of Black family life, including what schools are available to their children, their ability to build equity to pass on to their children, and where they are able to work. Participants also stressed the importance of challenging lenders’, insurers’, and employers’ over-reliance on credit scores and credit reporting in contexts both inside and outside of lending. Attacking these and other unfair and discriminatory practices will require consumer advocates to use the full arsenal of tools available, including civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act, to ensure equal access to credit.