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photo of Illinois state Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins

Illinois state Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins speaks during a news conference in December 2015. Collins says she wants wants banks to answer for the racial divides in their home purchase lending.

M. Spencer Green

Illinois State Sen. Jacqueline Collins Wants Legislation To Address Unequal Lending

Illinois state Sen. Jacqueline Collins wants to question banks about vastly unequal mortgage lending in Chicago revealed this week by City Bureau and WBEZ.

Collins, whose district cuts across the South Side and south suburbs, chairs the Illinois Senate’s Financial Institutions Committee.

Collins said she’s disturbed by the findings: Of the $57.4 billion banks and other lenders gave out in home purchase loans in Chicago between 2012 and 2018, 68% of that money went to Chicago’s majority-white neighborhoods, while black neighborhoods got just 8% and Latino areas saw 9%.

Four separate majority-white communities in Chicago each saw more lending than all black neighborhoods combined.

“I see the problems when I drive around my community, in the abandoned homes and the neglect,” Collins said.

Collins said a lack of lending in black neighborhoods has led to the current racial wealth gap and continuing black-white inequality. She said injustice in the housing, banking and real estate industries — and the disinvestment that results — is part of what’s fueling ongoing protests across the U.S. “That’s what the protests are in the streets about today.”

Black homeownership rates are lower today than they were 50 years ago when housing discrimination was outlawed, and they are particularly bad in Chicago.

Collins says WBEZ’s reporting gives an important bird’s-eye view of lending in the city that was missing before — and will allow community groups to push banks to do better and “bring them to the table to answer why, because you have the data now.”

WBEZ found gaps in home purchase lending were even wider than the market as a whole for some of the city’s largest lenders. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, lent 41 times more money in white neighborhoods than black neighborhoods. That is, for every dollar Chase lent for home purchases in Chicago’s white communities, it lent just 2.4 cents in black neighborhoods here.

Asked about its record, Chase sent a written statement to WBEZ before the story was published, saying “every Chicagoan should have equal access to the opportunity of homeownership, and we all have work to do for this to happen. That is why we’ve been working with community partners and local government leaders to create and promote sustainable homeownership opportunities by doubling our homebuyer grant, specifically in the South and West sides of the city, expanding access to our low down-payment mortgage product … and investing in affordable housing in Chicago.”

Randy Hultgren, former congressman and incoming president and CEO of the Illinois Bankers Association, told WBEZ prior to publication that banks are often hamstrung in how they lend by myriad federal laws and regulations, some of which are at odds, he said. He said his association, which represents nearly all banks in the state, supports “innovative changes” that would lead to more lending in minority communities, like adapting credit score models, improving down payment assistance and allowing community lenders more decision-making flexibility.

Hultren said the disparate lending trends revealed by WBEZ are “a reflection of historical underinvestments in lower-income communities.”

Collins said she wants to call banks before her state Senate committee soon. She wants to research what other states have done to force banks to spread out lending, and “to curtail the continual raping of various communities and depriving them of economic development.”

She said she’s looking for legislation with “teeth.”

Linda Lutton covers Chicago neighborhoods for WBEZ. Follow her @lindalutton

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