Brentin Mock is a staff writer at CityLab. He was previously the justice editor at Grist.
If the city seems hardwired for racial strife and segregation, that’s partly because the banks have programmed it that way, finds a new study.
If Baltimore seems hardwired for racial strife and segregation, that’s partly because the banks there have programmed it that way. Baltimore has a long history of redlining, in which financial institutions refuse to offer housing loans or insurance in African-American neighborhoods. That redlining legacy has continued running in the background, like an app Baltimore forgot to close, and as a result “the economic circumstances in Baltimore are an anomaly,” compared to other cities, according to a new report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC).
Members of this coalition analyzed housing and banking data in Baltimore from 2011 to 2013 and found that lenders were much stingier with mortgage loans for those trying to buy homes Baltimore’s majority African-American neighborhoods. In fact, it’s been easier for people of modest incomes to secure home loans in whiter and wealthier neighborhoods in neighboring counties than it is to get loans to buy homes in Baltimore’s black communities.
These three maps below, from the NCRC report, show what this culture of disinvestment looks like in Baltimore:
Researchers at NCRC found “a systematic disinvestment in majority African-American neighborhoods, even as investment flows to tracts with fewer African Americans,” reads the report. “This points to a pattern of neighborhood segregation within Baltimore’s city limits, and activities by lenders which perpetuate segregation and disinvestment.”
As they tested these redlining findings out across various models, the researchers never found a stronger indicator than race to explain why banks weren’t handing out loans throughout most of the city. No matter how much an applicant’s income was, they were far more likely to be denied a loan if looking to finance a home in the city’s black neighborhoods, especially if they were mostly low-income neighborhoods.
Banks are still discriminating against black residents when it comes to issuing home loans at all. NCRC researchers found that African Americans received only 37 percent of the loans that they should have gotten considering their population size as compared with white borrowers, who obtained 210 percent of the loans considering their population share.
When talking about homicide in Baltimore, or the riots that occurred there earlier this year, pundits often explain things away as part of a “culture of violence.” But rarely is the culture of disinvestment imposed upon African Americans considered as a relentless, contributing factor.
AS NCRC president John Taylor said of the report, “Until our financial institutions make a full and genuine commitment that creditworthy borrowers, regardless of their skin color, will be able to access responsible credit, the economies in these neighborhoods will continue to deteriorate, and we will continue to have the circumstances you see in Baltimore, Ferguson, and elsewhere.”