Women, especially women of color, have been disproportionally affected by getting sub-prime mortgages. Here are some facts:
Women make up 30% of borrowers for mortgages, but are 32% more likely than men to receive sub-prime mortgages, despite slightly higher credit scores (682 versus 675). This disparity occurs across all income levels, with the difference increasing as income rises.
African Americans were twice or more likely to receive sub-prime loans than whites. Additionally, Hispanics were more than three times more likely to receive high interest rate loans than whites in all income ranges. The only group less likely to receive sub-prime loans than whites was Asian Americans.
A study by Wider Opportunities for Women found that older women, particularly older women of color, are more vulnerable to sub-prime loans because of the cumulative effect of lower wages, occupational segregation, and smaller retirement savings. Even with a median retirement income, older women who carry mortgages still fall 20% short of a level that would provide economic security.
For more, check out this fact sheet on the sub-prime mortgage crisis from the National Council for Research on Women.
Some of these women are now facing foreclosure and evictions. So what are we going to do about it?
Well ACORN, one of the biggest community organizing groups in the country, has one answer. They’re setting up networks of people in various parts of the country–starting with New York and extending to 22 other cities–ready to instantaneously mobilize should folks who have been unfairly targeted be forced from their homes. The idea is to get allies and neighbors right to people’s homes when officers are on the way so they can obstruct the forced evictions and get media attention. Read more about the campaign here.
I realize the immediate importance of helping folks stay in their homes, but I’m wondering how we are also going to change the system that got these women (and others) into this vulnerable position in the first place. What organizations–governmental or not–are being strengthened that can serve as watch dogs looking out for sketchy loan officers? Who is setting up financial education opportunities in low income communities where these loan offers prey? And how can women–who are especially interested in having a “room of one’s own”–make sure that we are realistic about what we can afford?
I would love to see this short term activism be balanced out with some big picture strategizing. Anyone know anyone working at the long term level?
Update: Bizarrely, right after writing this post I found out that Obama answered this call directly yesterday with a $275 billion housing plan. Check it out.