Upon reading these volumes, you cannot escape the powerful impact historical policies and discriminatory actions have had in creating today’s crisis. The era of redlining in communities of color is well documented and addressed in all three books, but in greatest detail by Immergluck and Katz. The pathways to building the American middle class was aided by the development of the policies to support homeownership created by FHA and other post New Deal programs. Unfortunately, these programs primarily only served white suburban America, leaving most communities of color behind and leading to the huge race-based disparities in wealth in our nation today, where recent data finds the disparity in white vs. black assets to be nearly 900 percent. In many ways we are still trying to solve the problems created by the redlining era — instead of assuring sustainable credit in communities of color, the more drive there is to increase homeownership by creating a dual “predatory” lending market for underserved communities resulted in reverse redlining. That said, reverse redlining was only possible because of the continued effect of redlining dating back to the 50s and 60s with credit-starved communities of color presenting vulnerable targets for the lending industry.
Race is critical to understanding and solving the housing crisis; our society cannot tolerate or sustain a separate and unequal system of delivering credit to marginalized communities of color. Minority populations became the target of subprime loans, with many borrowers not being informed of other loan options even if they qualified. As we are learning from the recent Wells Fargo litigation in Baltimore, lenders openly targeted black families for subprime loan products. Because of the extreme concentrations of subprime loans in communities of color, these neighborhoods were disproportionately affected when foreclosures spiked, resulting in a deadly spiral of abandonment, blight, disinvestment and neglect for these communities. Until we can provide sustainable credit in our underserved and marginalized communities we will never truly address our nation’s housing challenges.