Mortgage lenders continue to overwhelmingly favor White neighborhoods over Black neighborhoods, perpetuating cycles of underinvestment and racial inequity. The Mortgage Access Initiative is an effort to tackle this issue head-on.

Mortgage Access Initiative

In 2020, WBEZ and City Bureau’s “Where Banks Don’t Lend” showed that lenders had originated more mortgages in a single White neighborhood of Chicago than all Black neighborhoods combined. These revelations also spurred the Chicago City Council to adopt the Lending Equity Ordinance in 2021, which compels banks that do business with the City to provide data on the demographic and geographic distribution of their lending.

In this context, Woodstock Institute and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS) decided to bring together representatives of various types of mortgage lenders—credit unions, banks, and mortgage companies—for honest conversations about the systemic barriers to homeownership for people of color and how we can address them. These meetings marked the beginning of the Mortgage Access Initiative.

As part of this process, participants broke down each step of the mortgage lending process and used their expertise to identify the specific gaps and roadblocks that prevent mortgage credit from flowing towards underserved communities of color.

After 18 months of meetings, NHS and Woodstock drew on participating mortgage lenders' input along with borrowers’ lived experiences to arrive at the following policy recommendations:

  • A proposal for an equitable mortgage product
  • Make homeownership more affordable for people of color by ensuring Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans only go to borrowers ineligible for conforming loan products
  • Incentivize lending to people of color by addressing loan officer compensation structure and optimizing relationships with housing counselors.

These recommendations will help guide our advocacy efforts as we engage other actors in the mortgage lending process. We plan to continue this project by bringing in different stakeholders such as appraisers, real estate professionals, and representatives of government sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Latest Updates

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Aerial photo of Chicago neighborhood

Crain’s Chicago Business: The rocky path for Black and Latino homebuyers in Chicago

"'We have an unbalanced system, and we would all be better off if we figured out a way to make things better,” says Horacio Mendez, executive director of the Woodstock Institute. "Whether they're in a dinghy or a yacht, fewer people complain about what's going on if the water is rising for everyone.'"

Just-Released Report Identifies Solutions for Closing Chicago’s Racial Homeownership Gap

The report’s policy recommendations are the result of work between community organizations and different kinds of mortgage lenders.