The Role Of Race In The Mortgage Mess

Just six months after buying his home in New York City, CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports, Michael Wiggins fell behind on his payments.

Pinkston asked Wiggins if he was afraid at that point that he would lose his home.

"Yes," Wiggins told him, adding, "I knew I was going to lose it."

Wiggins, a city bus driver, was one of millions of Americans caught in the subprime mortgage crisis.

His Mortgage Lenders Network loan gave him an 11 percent interest rate with a payment of $3,900 a month. But that jumped to $4,200 a month because of delinquency fees and penalties.

Knowing he was sinking fast, Wiggins looked for refinancing at commercial banks.

"I would say I went to eight banks," Wiggins said.

"And what did they tell you?" Pinkston asked.

"They were telling me no," he answered.

But one bank said yes - not a big institution with billions in assets - but a small one, Carver Federal Savings.

With Carver, Wiggins received a 7.5 percent fixed interest rate, a $2,600 a month mortgage and a $3,500 line of credit.

Carver president Deborah Wright says they get hundreds of applications from people like Wiggins, but not everyone qualifies.

Pinkston asked Wright how the bank decides on who they can help.

"There are some core principles around," Wright explained. "What's the real estate worth...do you trust the person to straighten up and fly right?"

Some community banks believe there's a racial component to the sub prime mortgage crisis, an idea supported by a Federal Reserve Study that found 55 percent of African Americans, compared to 17 percent of whites, were steered to subprime mortgages, even when they were qualified for lower interest rates.

"It's a surprise to some people," Wright said. "It's not a surprise to us."

One reason Carver and other community banks are in a position to help is because they stuck to conservative lending principles and avoided the subprime bandwagon, investing in people they know.

"They looked at me as a person," Wiggins told Pinkston, "Everybody else seemed to look at me as a score or something like that."

A small gesture - with big returns.
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