The New York Times: Interest Rates Are Low, but Loans Are Harder to Get. Here’s Why.

The New York Times, August 4, 2020: Interest Rates Are Low, but Loans Are Harder to Get. Here’s Why.

As public school teachers, Tori Smith and her husband have careers that should survive the coronavirus economy, but their mortgage lender wasn’t taking any chances.

It told them that they would have to put down more money to keep the interest rate they wanted, then dialed back what it was willing to lend them. And Ms. Smith said it had checked their employment status several times during the approval process — and again a few days before the couple closed on their home in Zebulon, N.C., last month.

Ms. Smith said she had never gotten a straight answer about the new requirements, but she ventured a guess. “I felt like we had to bring more just because of Covid,” she said.

The economic crisis caused by the pandemic has driven interest rates to rock-bottom levels, meaning there has hardly been a better time to borrow. But with tens of millions of people out of work and coronavirus infections surging in many parts of the country, qualifying for a loan — from mortgages to auto loans — has become more trying, even for well-positioned borrowers.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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