Forum on Affordable Housing August 27

BY ED FELIEN

The Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights will host a public forum on affordable housing at Pillsbury House on Wednesday, Aug. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, Professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, will moderate the event, and one of the members of the panel will be Myron Orfield of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School.  Orfield is the author of the Twin Cities Lending Report that demonstrated evidence that local mortgage lending institutions were guilty of racist redlining in issuing mortgages to African American and Latino homeowners.
Orfield presented this evidence to the Minneapolis City Council on July 23 (see accompanying article).  Representatives from Wells Fargo countered that there were other criteria than race that made up decisions on whether to assign minorities subprime mortgages.  Orfield responded by asking the banks to release that other data.  The banks would not release the information.  It is estimated that the housing crisis in the Twin Cities cost homeowners and municipalities dependent on property taxes over $21 billion dollars, and much of that crisis was caused by banks issuing subprime loans with higher interest rates and expensive closing costs.
In order to prove that the banks used race as a criteria in lending (which is illegal by City ordinance, State statute and Federal law) either the City of Minneapolis or the State of Minnesota will have to sue the lending institutions for recovery of damages.  The first stage of a lawsuit is Discovery, in which the parties exchange information relevant to the case.  At that stage Wells Fargo and other institutions would have to reveal all the criteria that went into making the loans.  The banks would like to hold off releasing this information for as long as possible because the statute of limitations on contracts is six years.  So, every day that passes another foreclosed homeowner from 2008 loses a chance for justice in a court of law.
Other members of the panel on August 27 will be: Gretchen Nichols, Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation; Wesley J. Butler, Department of Community Planning and Economic Development; Libby Starling, Metropolitan Council; Anthony Newby, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change; and Sue Watlov Phillips, Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing.

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