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Excerpted From: Samantha Ondrade, Enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act to Combat Redlining, 70 Department of Justice Journal of Federal Law and Practice 247 (January 2022) (50 Footnotes) (Full Document)


SamanthaOndradeThis article discusses the Department of Justice's (Department) enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to combat redlining, the practice by which lenders avoid or exclude communities of color from equal access to credit based on the demographic characteristics of their neighborhoods. The Department has long demonstrated a strong commitment to uphold the promise of equal opportunity for all Americans, and fundamental to that promise is the right to access lending services free from discrimination. Providing communities of color with equal access to credit is the foundation for equal access to homeownership, wealth building, and social and geographic mobility.

To underscore the Department's dedication to bringing its full resources to bear to address redlining problems, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke announced in October 2021 the Combatting Redlining Initiative (Initiative), through which the Civil Rights Division is partnering with U.S. Attorneys' Offices (USAOs) nationwide to address patterns of redlining. This Initiative represents the federal government's most significant enforcement effort to address redlining and to ensure equal access to credit for all Americans.

As discussed later in this article, this Initiative is informed by the successful settlements the Department has obtained as a result of its redlining enforcement actions, which have expanded financial opportunities not only for individual borrowers and previously redlined communities, but for lenders as well.

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Robust enforcement of the FHA and the ECOA by the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys' Offices has been shown to have a substantial, beneficial impact on residents of previously redlined areas, those communities, and lenders. By collaborating with U.S. Attorneys' Offices nationwide, the Department will continue to demonstrate its commitment to combat redlining wherever lenders engage in it.

Samantha Ondrade is a Trial Attorney in the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section (HCE) of the Civil Rights Division.

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