Modern-Day Redlining in Philadelphia and the Promise Zone


Photo Credit: Ian Freimuth/ via Creative Commons

By: Elizabeth Cohen

In February 2018, Reveal published a story on the large racial differences in home lending (also known as modern-day redlining) across the United States. Reveal did a national analysis of lending patterns using conventional mortgage records in 2015 and 2016.

Although the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made redlining illegal, Reveal’s analysis showed that there were differences by race in who were offered conventional loans. They found that Philadelphia has one of the largest racial gaps in home lending among large cities.  Read the full story here.

Redlining in Philadelphia

  • Black applicants in Philadelphia were almost three times more likely to be denied a conventional home purchase loan than white applicants.
  • White applicants were ten times more likely to receive conventional mortgages loans than black applicants.
  • Banks focused on serving the white parts of town, placing nearly three-quarters of their branches in white-majority neighborhoods.
  • Wells Fargo Bank denied 27 percent of conventional home purchase applications from black applicants and 9 percent from white applicants.
  • Santander Bank denied 37 percent of black applicants and 13 percent of white ones.
  • PNC Bank denied 44 percent of black applicants and 15 percent of white applicants.

The findings from the Reveal study raised this issue to regional and national attention. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and State Treasurer Joe Torsella have begun separate investigations into redlining across the state.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania state Senator Vincent J. Hughes are also calling for a federal investigation because many of the banks mentioned in the Reveal story should be obeying the federal Fair Housing Act laws.

Locally, Philadelphia City Council’s Legislative Oversight Committee had hearings about the findings in March. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, head of the Legislative Oversight Committee, is considering next steps based on the testimony.

Read about solutions that were proposed at the hearing here. According to Reuters, on May 14, The City of Philadelphia sued Wells Fargo for predatory lending.

In May, the Promise Zone Housing Committee partners focused on ways they could they could work together to take action in West Philadelphia in response to Reveal’s findings on redlining. The Promise Zone Housing Committee includes federal, state, city, non-profit, and resident partners. Representatives from Congressman Dwight Evans’ office attended the meeting. Committee partners discussed the ideas of hosting a community lending event where residents could meet with lenders interested in loaning to qualified applicants, and hosting workshops that would prepare residents to apply for home loans.

Promise Zone Housing Committee will be working with Reveal researchers to publish an analysis of redlining in West Philadelphia and the Promise Zone. There should be an update on this study later in the summer.

If you think you may have been discriminated against when applying for a home loan:

You can share your personal experience to help with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s investigation in Philadelphia.

Call:  800-441-2555



 You can share your experience with the Fair Housing Rights Center. All information will be kept confidential and the information will be used to conduct investigations and enforce the Fair Housing Act in Philadelphia.

Call: 215-625-0700


Fill out a Complaint Form



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