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Michael Mukasey, Attorney General in 2008

The National Fair Housing Alliance released their 2009 Fair Housing Trends Report today. It focuses mostly on enforcement issues—-which groups are filing lawsuits and launching investigations into fair housing breaches—-rather than highlighting new trends in complaints.

And that makes for some pretty sleep-inducing reading material, but here’s one finding that kept my lids from sliding down:

 “In 2008, the Justice Department brought only one mortgage lending case, alleging that First Lowndes Bank discriminated against African American borrowers by charging them higher interest rates on manufactured housing loans than similarly-situated white borrowers.

Under the consent order, which is pending court approval, the Bank will pay $185,000 to compensate borrowers who were charged higher rates.” 

Not surprisingly, private groups saw more mortgage lending discrimination allegations this year than ever before: In 2008, they reported 1,499 complaints compared to 1,245 in 2007. In total, public and private groups recorded 1,779 complaints in this category.

As the report points out, it’s a little perplexing that the DOJ brought only one mortgage lending discrimination case  last year, “given the extensive research into how discriminatory lending practices were so prevalent in the subprime market.”  This wasn’t always the case:

“During the 1990s, the Justice Department engaged in strong fair lending enforcement. It brought 14 high-profile fair lending cases challenging mortgage lenders engaged in “pattern or practice” discrimination between 1992 and 2000, many of which challenged discriminatory predatory activities and resulted in successful outcomes for communities of color. Yet in the years since, the Justice Department has prosecuted only a handful of new lending discrimination cases, despite the significant discriminatory predatory lending that has been going on throughout the past several years.” (Page 24)