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House Committee Addresses Lending Equality

The House Committee on Financial Services has marked up two mortgage and housing related pieces of legislation, The Fair Lending Act for All Act (HR 166) and the Improving Language Access in Mortgage Servicing Act (HR 3009), both written to address the issue of equality.

The Fair Lending for All Act, sponsored by Rep. Al Green, modifies provisions related to prohibited credit discrimination, adding sexual orientation, gender identity, and an applicant's location based on zip code or census tract as classes protected against discrimination with respect to credit transactions. Currently, discrimination is prohibited on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or because an applicant receives public assistance. HR 166 establishes criminal penalties for violations of prohibited credit discrimination. Another measure in the bill requires the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to review loan applications for compliance with specified consumer laws and to establish an Office of Fair Lending Testing, led by a Director who will be appointed to a five-year term by, and report to, the Director of CFPB.

“HR 166 is a groundbreaking bill by Rep. Green that will help combat discrimination in the consumer financial marketplace, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services. “This would be done through updates to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), and through the creation of a CFPB Office of Fair Lending Testing that would incorporate techniques used successfully by researchers to better identify and address discrimination in financial services.”

Also marked up by the House Committee on Financial Services was the Improving Language Access in Mortgage Servicing Act (HR 3009), sponsored by Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia, and co-sponsored by Rep. Green. HR 3009 will establish language access requirements for mortgage loan officers and servicing companies so that they may better serve borrowers whose primary language is not English. According to the legislation, these language resources for mortgage lenders and servicing companies will be provided by the CFPB. This bill would also require relevant federal agencies to provide language resources to assist mortgage lenders and servicing companies to better meet the needs of their borrowers.

“This bill would help close information gaps and prevent foreclosures by ensuring that people with limited English proficiency have access to documents and services in their preferred language,” said Rep. Waters.

Rep. Garcia said, “Sadly, for far too long, our communities have been left behind. Entire families have experienced the stress and difficulty that language barriers put on their shoulders when buying a home, accessing a loan, or engaging with loan servicing companies. It is time to make language accessibility the norm and not the exception. HR 3009 is a step in that direction, and we will continue pushing this issue and improving the way our families interact with services and companies which deeply affect their lives and their capacity to thrive in our society.”

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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