Bias seen in mortgages

NAACP officials accused top lenders of discriminatory mortgage practices in a series of protests yesterday in Baltimore and cities across the nation.

Last year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed lawsuits against 17 major lenders, contending that African-Americans were given loans with higher interest rates and other poor terms solely because of their race. The lenders have maintained that their practices are not discriminatory.


But NAACP officials blamed the recent rise in foreclosures in Maryland and elsewhere on predatory lending and said that the subprime mortgage crisis had changed the American dream of owning a home into a nightmare.

"Owning a home means much more than not paying rent. Home ownership is the key to building the wealth that pays for college, supports retirement and is reinvested in communities," said Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, the president of the NAACP's Baltimore branch.


"This discrimination is keeping communities and the next generation of young people from moving forward," he said.

NAACP officials were joined by labor leaders, clergy and politicians in what they termed a national day of action on mortgage issues. Protesters carried banners with slogans such as "Don't discriminate, offer the same rate."

"The lenders should make amends and stop the discrimination once and for all," said Del. Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat.

The defendants in the 17 suits include some of the nation's biggest lenders, such as Washington Mutual Inc., CitiMortgage Inc., HSBC Finance Corp., GMAC Mortgage Group and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

"The only difference between the victims in this case and other customers is the color of their skin," said Brian Kabateck, who is co-lead counsel in the suit. "They had the same credit, the same income and the same qualifications, but because they were African-Americans, they were ripped off."