The Wall Street Journal: Dearth of Credit Starves Detroit’s Housing Market

The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2020, Dearth of Credit Starves Detroit’s Housing Market

Lenders have turned their backs to financing homes in Detroits low-priced properties making it harder for Black residents to have access to home ownership. The impact of prohibiting mortgages in these areas of Detroit disproportionately affects Black resident making it harder for them to build wealth. Due to lenders not being able to make money on tiny mortgages they do not make them, and this further devastates the city’s neighborhoods.

Detroit is making a comeback after years of decline that led to a bankruptcy filing in 2013. But large swaths of the city are left behind, starved of the housing credit needed to revive them. No purchase mortgages were made last year in almost a third of Detroit’s census tracts, and fewer than five each in another third, according to data from LendingPatterns.com, a mortgage-data analysis tool.

The impact runs disproportionately along racial lines in the majority Black city. Detroit’s Black residents are largely shut out of access to financing, making it tougher to attain homeownership, the key to building wealth for most Americans.

Nonprofits, governments and corporations are trying to channel money back into the city’s neighborhoods. But making mortgages in Detroit is a convoluted task. The dearth of credit is largely a consequence of battered property values plus a commercial reality that depresses them further: Lenders can’t earn money on tiny mortgages, so they don’t make them.

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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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