The bursting of the real estate bubble has been a catastrophe for the broad American middle class as a whole, but it has been particularly devastating to African Americans. According to the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, North Carolina, nearly 25 percent of African Americans who bought or refinanced their homes between 2004 and 2008 (and an equivalent share among Latinos) have already lost or will end up losing their homes—compared to 11.9 percent of white families in the same situation. This disparate impact of the housing crash has made the racial gap in wealth even more extreme. As Reid Cramer, director of the Asset Building Program at the New America Foundation, puts it, “Basically, we have gone from an average minority family owning 10 cents to the dollar compared to the average white family to now owning less than a nickel.” The median black family today holds only $4,955 in assets.
Sugrue can only process this through the oppressor-oppressed model. He blames predatory lending. If he could open his eyes a little wider, he might be able to see the role played by government housing policy. Some notes:
1. From a wealth-destruction perspective, you cannot just look at the people who lost their homes. People who stayed current on their mortgages nonetheless experienced wealth destruction.
2. Probably more borrowers were “victimized” by Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and FHA than by Wall Street. That is, my guess is that a majority of the homeowners whose wealth has been crushed paid for their homes with loans backed by one of those agencies.
Speaking of housing, Luigi Zingales finds some numbers regarding occupancy fraud.
In fact, the authors find that more than 6% of mortgage loans misreport the borrower’s occupancy status, while 7% do not disclose second liens.
You get a lower rate by saying you plan to live in the home, so speculators will often lie about that. One of the reasons that programs to “help owners stay in their homes” are not doing very much is that a lot of those owners never occupied the homes in the first place.
Zingales references a working paper that I cannot find. Thus, I cannot tell whether the borrowers defrauded the lenders or the lenders defrauded the investors who bought the loans. I always presume that it is the borrower instigating the fraud. However, Zingales says that the bankers should be prosecuted. He makes it sound as if the lenders would record a loan internally as backed by an investment property and report it to investors as an owner-occupied home. That would require a much more complex conspiratorial action on the part of the lender, and until I learn otherwise, I will doubt that it happened.