Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Home loan activity in Allegheny County spiked in 2021, but not enough to close racial gaps

A house for sale sign in Lawrenceville.
Jakob Lazzaro
90.5 WESA
While home loan originations increased across the board between 2018 and 2021, white middle and upper-income households saw the largest increases.

While the number of home loans given to Allegheny County borrowers increased between 2018 and 2021, a new analysis from the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group shows a persistent racial gap in mortgage lending remains.

Banks and mortgage companies saw a large spike in home refinancing over the last few years. PCRG's John Boyle, who authored the report, said that was especially true in the early part of the pandemic, when interest rates were low. By 2021, mortgage refinancing made up more than 56% of all loan activity in Allegheny County, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But while home loan originations increased across the board, white middle and upper-income households saw the largest increases. To refinance a mortgage, after all, one must already own a home.

“Yes, they both went up, but it still is disproportionately [skewed] to the people who have already benefited from the financial and housing system that we have,” Boyle said.

While homeownership rates across all demographics dropped over the past decade, Black residents faced a more staggering decline compared to their white counterparts, according to a PCRG report last year.

PCRG’s analysis found only 7% of all dollars loaned in 2021 went to residents in Pittsburgh’s majority-Black neighborhoods, while 90.3% went to majority-white neighborhoods.

Boyle said the five census tracts that makeup Shadyside, for instance, saw $73.5 million in loans granted for home purchases in 2021, compared to a combined $66.5 million from all of Pittsburgh’s 31 majority-Black census tracts.

Looking back at data from the last 30 years, Boyle said major gains were made in reducing lending discrimination, but that progress was “wiped out” once lending began to stabilize after the recession of the last decade.

“I do think part of it is a banking issue, but I think that is just one piece of it," he said. "[It's part of an overall] system that's just not working for a lot of people here in Allegheny County."

Residents can sift through all of PCRG's data and find the most equitable lender in their neighborhood.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.