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New Report Finds Steep Inequities In Who Gets Home Loans In Pittsburgh

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

On today’s program: A report from the Lower Marshall-Shadeland Development Initiative found a fraction of loan dollars went to minority residents in Pittsburgh over the last decade; a group of citizens have proposed their own map for drawing congressional district lines, the first of its kind; and we speak to an advocate about the low voter turnout rate among people incarcerated in jails, and what more needs to be done to ensure they can exercise their legal right to vote. 

Report on lending inequities in Pittsburgh shows Black residents are less likely to receive public and private loans
(0:00 - 5:54)

A new report from Parents Against Violence and the Lower Marshall-Shadeland Development Initiative (LMSDI) found steep inequities between those who received home loans in Pittsburgh. Between 2007 and 2019, out of $12 billion in home loans, less than 7% went to the city’s minority residents.

“During that 13 year study period, one neighborhood, Shadyside, received more than a billion dollars in bank loans, while all of the city’s minority neighborhoods combined saw just over $800 million,” says Margaret J. Krauss, WESA’s transportation and development reporter.

Krauss says although Shadyside is a more expensive neighborhood to live in, the report highlights who is and is not granted a loan. “Not everyone in Shadyside is fit for a mortgage, but not everyone in Homewood is not fit for a mortgage.”

The report largely focused on the geography of approved loans, but it did include application and denial rates for 2020.

“Almost half of all loan applications from Black residents were denied,” says Krauss. “For comparison’s sake, the denial rate for white Pittsburghers was roughly 20%.”

Krauss says the report’s authors are calling for banks to build better relationships with residents of color, for there to be more scrutiny over how banks are lending and to whom, and for legislation like an update to the federal Community Reinvestment Act to be implemented.

Citizens are helping draw new congressional district maps
(5:57 - 15:03)

Draw the Lines Pennsylvania released a proposed map of 17 congressional districts. More than 7,000 residents created this map, the first of its kind.

“This Citizens Map that we’ve just released is the culmination of a series of biannual competitions we’ve held for the last few years that’s given Pennsylvania citizens the tools and the data that they can use to draw their own Congressional maps,” explains David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, the parent organization of Draw the Lines Pennsylvania.

Thornburgh says an important “North Star” principle was to create a map drawn by and for Pennsylvanians.

“One of the things that drives people most crazy in their own communities … is when their community gets sliced and diced [by congressional district lines] for no apparent reason just to satisfy some diabolical, political interest,” says Thornburgh.

Lauren Ban, a University of Pittsburgh law student and member of the Citizen Map Corps, says the goal for mapmakers was to create districts that were compact and contiguous.

“The nice thing about this competition was that we weren’t just given a map and then told, this is what we made, we were allowed to submit our own stories with reasoning [for how it was drawn],” says Ban.

Draw the Lines is accepting feedback on the map as well.

County jails lack a uniform policy for helping eligible voters exercise their rights
(15:07 - 22:30)

Those awaiting trial or serving sentences for misdemeanors in county jails in Pennsylvania still have the right to vote, but their access depends a lot on the facility they reside in.

A recent report from All Voting is Local analyzed the voting processes in county jails across Pennsylvania.

Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, says that despite some incarcerated people having this right, jails are not compelled to share that information with occupants and there is no universal policy to support it. He says many incarcerated people don’t even know they have the right to vote from jail.

“There are those [county jails] who are doing a good job of informing and creating a space where people can register and vote, and then there are those who have maybe staff that are doing a little bit extra to help that go along, but there’s no internal policies that are in place,” says Ali.

He says a policy should be put in place, along with better enforcement to ensure eligible voters’ rights are not infringed upon.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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