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U.S. watchdog says Black, Hispanic homeowners more likely to be in forbearance program

Economic IndicatorsMay 04, 2021 04:59PM ET
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By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Black and Hispanic U.S. mortgage borrowers are much more likely to be delinquent or in a "forbearance" program than white borrowers, highlighting how the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating systemic racial disparities, according to new data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

In a pair of new reports published Tuesday analyzing 2020 mortgage complaints, the agency found that 33% of homeowners in mortgage holidays or "forbearance" programs and 27% of delinquent borrowers, identify as Black or Hispanic, while only 18% of the total population of mortgage borrowers identify as Black or Hispanic.

The agency said that mortgage-related complaints equated to 5% of its overall complaints since January 2020, but in March 2021, however, it received the "greatest monthly mortgage complaint volume since April 2018."

The reports are part of a broader effort by the CFPB to execute President Joe Biden's priorities to help Americans recover from the pandemic, boost fair housing and address systemic racial injustice.

"More borrowers are behind on their mortgage than at any time since the height of the Great Recession," said CFPB acting Director Dave Uejio. "Communities of color have been hit hard by the pandemic, and the latest data show that many borrowers are still hurting," he added.

"The burdens of the crisis are not equally borne, as the data bear," said Center for Responsible Lending Senior Policy Counsel Melissa Stegman. "It is critical that racial equity remain at the core of all COVID relief efforts."

To help Americans weather pandemic lockdowns, Congress last year gave many struggling homeowners the right to pause mortgage repayments and imposed a moratorium on foreclosures.

The CFPB also found that loans in forbearance or delinquency are disproportionately likely to be higher risk with limited equity, which suggests that minorities were already more vulnerable entering the pandemic.

Between January 2020 and March 2021, consumers complained that mortgage servicers - companies or banks which process mortgage payments - did not provide clear and accurate information about their options, including details regarding loss mitigation, until after the consumer's forbearance period had ended, the agency found.

Some borrowers found the forbearance process "confusing and incomplete," complained of delays and, in some cases, being denied loan modifications, the CFPB said.

Reuters reported https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/exclusive-fearing-foreclosure-crisis-us-watchdog-cracks-down-mortgage-servicers-2021-04-19 last month that the CFPB was cracking down on mortgage servicers amid worries some may be discriminating against minority borrowers. The agency is also worried that millions of Americans in forbearance could be pushed into foreclosure when forbearance programs expire this year.

U.S. watchdog says Black, Hispanic homeowners more likely to be in forbearance program
 

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