Giving Credit Where it’s Due: Latinos and Credit Scores

By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR
Family in front of house

In the run up to the Great Recession, Latinos and other low-income homebuyers of color more often than not received higher-priced mortgage loans than White borrowers. Today, Latinos and low-income communities of color are still being short-changed in the mortgage market.

In 2015, few mortgages were made to Latino and Black borrowers, with 8% of all home purchase loans made to Latinos, and only 5% going to Black borrowers. Tight lending standards have made it difficult for millions of Americans to buy a home since the Great Recession, especially for Latinos and low-income families with credit scores below 700. While the minimum credit score needed to qualify for a home loan has increased by 40 points, the credit scores of Latinos who receive mortgages have increased by nearly 80 points since 2000.  Moreover, Latino borrowers are less likely than White borrowers to have a credit score and full credit history, making them appear riskier to lenders than they really are.

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Is Homeownership Just a Dream for Latino Millennials?

By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Family in front of home

While American families who bought a home before the Great Recession were likely most concerned with the interest rates of their home loan, today’s millennials might be more preoccupied with the interest rates and repayment plans on their student loans.

Nearly 70 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients leave school with debt. Student loan debt is one of the largest burdens carried by Americans today, second only to mortgage debt. As a result, it comes as no surprise that student loan debt may be holding back millennials, especially older millennials, from buying a home.

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Six Trends That Show Latino Homeownership is Important to the Housing Market and the Economy

By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Headlines about the nation’s housing market have focused on the low homeownership rate, currently stalled at 63%, compared to a high in 2001 of more than 73%. Yet, little attention has been paid to the impact of the low Hispanic homeownership rate on America’s ongoing economic recovery, and in turn, the future of the nation’s housing market.

Overlooking this impact is a huge oversight, given that the majority of new households formed in the next two decades will be made up by homeowners of color. In fact, Latinos are expected to account for 40% of those new households. At the end of 2016, the Hispanic homeownership rate increased to 47%, but remained much lower than the peak of 50% nearly 10 years ago. With significant household growth on the horizon, creditworthy Latinos need access to homeownership to ensure that the opportunity to build wealth is available to all Americans in the decades to come.

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Latinos Overwhelmingly Support Consumer Protection

By Renato Rocha, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

In less than six years since opening its doors, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has brought transparency to the remittance industry, stopped credit card companies from adding on products that consumers never agreed to, and required mortgage lenders to ask applicants for proof of their income before making home loans. Its creation is one of the most important accomplishments of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

Despite the CFPB’s hard work on behalf of American families, efforts are underway to dismantle the agency. One such attempt is the “Financial Choice Act of 2017,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s vehicle to de-regulate the financial industry and dismantle the CFPB.

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Workers in the United States Deserve a Raise

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Millions of workers and their families are living in poverty despite being employed and working back-breaking hours. This is largely because the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for the last six years, while the cost of living, food, education, and health care have continued to soar.

Worse, the minimum wage for tipped workers has been frozen at $2.13 for more than a quarter of a century. It’s clearly time to raise the minimum wage—workers deserve a better standard of living that doesn’t force them to struggle to cover standard necessities.

The “Raise the Wage Act” introduced yesterday by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) would go a long way toward strengthening middle-class families by raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, and gradually increasing the tipped minimum wage each year. This legislation would help lift full-time workers out of poverty, reduce their need for public benefits, and increase their ability to afford basic living costs such as food, visits to the doctor, and home repairs.

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Congress Could Jeopardize Retirement Security for Millions

By Marisabel Torres, Senior Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR

Photo: http://401kcalculator.org

An upcoming vote in the Senate will determine whether states can help their residents prepare for a time that all workers should have the right to enjoy: retirement. While that seems like a goal Congress should support, the House and Senate already voted to block the Department of Labor (DOL)’s rule allowing cities to establish their own retirement plans. Now, they’re looking to put state plans in jeopardy with a vote on S.J. Res 32.

Many workers recognize that pensions, which used to be a common employee benefit in supporting a robust retirement, are not a guarantee in today’s labor market. And increasingly, neither are employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401k. Currently, more than 45 percent of working-age households in the United States do not have access to a retirement savings plan through their employer. For Latinos, 60 percent do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. The city and state plans proposed would provide auto-enrollment Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for private sector workers who tend to be lower-income, and don’t have access to such benefits through their employers. This would also benefit employees of small businesses, where 50 percent of employers don’t offer retirement plans. Workers who participate are automatically opted in to a retirement savings account that takes out a predetermined amount from their monthly paychecks and saves it in an IRA. Workers also have the option to opt out at any time.

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The Financial Choice Act of 2017 Is the Wrong Choice for American Families

By Renato Rocha, Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Project, NCLR

The reckless behavior of financial institutions including banks, credit card companies, and mortgage lenders caused the 2008 financial crisis that cost Americans millions of jobs, billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, and trillions of lost retirement savings. A lack of consumer protections and oversight of the financial marketplace allowed unscrupulous lenders to target communities of color with unfair and abusive financial products. The Latino community was disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis and is still struggling to recover.

The devastating and widespread effects of the crisis led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which we view to be the crown jewel of Wall Street reform. In less than six years, the CFPB has already curbed several deceptive practices in the financial marketplace: bringing transparency to the remittance industry, prohibiting credit companies from adding on products that consumers never agreed to, and requiring mortgage lenders to ensure that applicants can afford the home loans they’re seeking. The CFPB is also working on putting protections in place that would rein in predatory payday loans and debt collection practices. Each one of these actions have helped put all Americans on a path to greater financial security.

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Congress: Don’t Turn Your Back on Workers Struggling to Save for Retirement

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Social Security is widely recognized as playing an important role in workers’ retirement security. In 2015 alone, Social Security benefits kept 22 million retirees out of poverty, and more than 60% of elderly beneficiaries relied on Social Security for most of their retirement cash income.

To celebrate National Social Security Month this April, the Social Security Administration created an online guide that workers can use to learn more about the program and its benefits.

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Making Quality Housing Affordable Again for Latinos in Los Angeles

By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

ELACC and partners with tenants’ rights fighters and allies from all over the state of California. Photos: ELACC

Homeownership continues to be essential to the creation of Latino family wealth, yet many Latino families are still trying to recover from the loss of their home to foreclosure during the financial crisis, as well as job loss during the recession that hit Latino communities hard.

For families who live in expensive cities like Los Angeles, homeownership can seem even further out of reach. In L.A., more than half of a family’s earnings goes to rent, and at 38%, Latinos have a lower rate of homeownership compared to other groups in the city. Even as families overall might pay less for a mortgage than on rent, Latino renters have difficulty saving for a down payment, let alone for a mortgage that would require nearly three times their median household earnings. Faced with this problem, community-based affordable housing organizations are finding creative ways of engaging community residents to make housing affordable for all.

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Four Things for Latino Families to Remember on Tax Day

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

For many Latino households, the tax refunds they receive every April is one of the largest influxes of cash they receive all year. The refunds help families pay debts, keep them out of poverty, and help to buy necessities like clothes and groceries. Below are a few things for Latino families to keep in mind as the 2016 tax filing season wraps up today.

1. You may be eligible for critical refunds, such as the EITC or CTC. Filing your taxes means that you might be eligible for critical refunds like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC and the CTC are two refundable tax credits that benefit low- and middle-income earners. They increase the earnings of lower-income workers, reduce child poverty, make low-wage work more rewarding, and offset the effect of paying regressive payroll taxes. Both credits raised more than nine million Americans out of poverty in 2015, and made 22 million others less poor. It is important to note that taxpayers filing with an ITIN number are eligible to claim the CTC, but not the EITC.

2. If you file your tax return with an ITIN, you may need to renew your ITIN to get a refund. Under legislation passed by Congress in 2015, the IRS requires that certain taxpayers renew their ITINs before they submit their tax return and claim certain tax credits, primarily the Child Tax Credit. Affected ITINs expired on January 1, 2017, and unless renewed, taxpayers using expired ITINs on their tax returns will face a delay in receiving eligible tax refunds. For more information and resources on renewing ITINs, visit nclr.us/ITIN.

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