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Thursday, March 12, 2009

On Monday, the Budget & Policy Center released a new report on the "High Cost of Subprime Lending in Washington State." We will be blogging on the topic throughout the week. Check out the entire paper and part one of the blog series.

Statewide, mortgages in lower-income neighborhoods were almost twice as likely to be high-cost than those in higher-income neighborhoods.* (See graph.)

The effect on household finances of having a high-cost mortgage can be significant. The cost of a $230,000 mortgage can easily be $600 higher per month, or over $200,000 over the course of a 30-year loan. In the middle of the current housing crisis, having a high-cost mortgage also suggests a higher likelihood of foreclosure.

In most areas of the state, lower income neighborhoods had higher rates of high cost loans than wealthier neighborhoods (click on table below to see larger version). In Cowlitz County, for example, 45.5 percent of mortgages in the lowest income neighborhoods were high-cost, compared to 20.8 percent in the higher-income neighborhoods. Whatcom County was the only area where wealthier neighborhoods did not have significantly lower rates of high-cost mortgages than poorer neighborhoods.

The pockets of high-cost mortgages across the state raise the question of whether borrowers in lower income regions and neighborhoods have adequate access to financial education and whether they have a variety of lending options. This has an impact on all homeowners: when foreclosures concentrate within neighborhoods, it is not just the delinquent homeowner that suffers. Other owners are likely to see impacts such as property value decline and increased crime.

*The federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) classifies mortgage as “high-cost” based on the loan’s annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is a better measure of the total cost than the contract interest rate alone because it includes points, fees, and other finance charges. Mortgages with APRs above designated thresholds are defined as “high-cost.”

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