Civil rights groups Wednesday called for a six-month moratorium on foreclosures on homes purchased using “reckless and unaffordable” subprime loans, saying a disproportionate share of the harm done by those loans is falling on African-American and Latino homeowners and their neighborhoods.

At a Washington, D.C., press conference, the groups — including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the National Council of La Raza — urged Congress to pass anti-predatory legislation, including a “private right of action,” that would give aggrieved borrowers more leeway to sue lenders for damages.

“If lenders, servicers, Wall Street and policymakers allow the flood of subprime foreclosures to continue rising unchecked, years of economic progress in communities of color will be wiped out, and the racial wealth and equity gap will widen even further,” said the NAACP’s Hilary O. Shelton in a statement. “Without intervention, subprime foreclosures will impose the greatest drain on African-American and Latino wealth ever experienced in this country.”

According to a Federal Reserve study of “higher-priced” loans made in 2005, blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to take out loans carrying higher interest rates.

About 55 percent of African-American borrowers and 46 percent of Hispanics took out higher-priced loans in 2005, compared with 17.2 percent of whites and 16.6 percent of Asians.

Higher-priced loans were defined as first-lien loans with an APR exceeding 3 percent of the rate for Treasury securities of comparable maturity. The threshold for junior, or subordinate, loans was 5 percent.

The report said it was unclear if minorities were targeted for higher-cost loans, because the government does not collect loan-level data on factors lenders use to price loans, including loan-to-value ratios, debt-to-income ratios and credit scores.

The study also found that most higher-priced loans were made to whites and to residents of predominantly white neighborhoods.

Whites took out 2.7 million of the roughly 4.3 million higher-cost purchase loans included in the study, compared with 1.2 million taken out by minorities. Whites also had a larger share of higher-priced refinance loans — 3.4 million, compared with 1.3 million for minorities.

The majority of higher-priced purchase loans — 3.5 million — were made in predominantly white Census tracts. About one in six higher-cost loans — 700,000 total — were made in Census tracts where minorities made up 50 percent or more of the population.

About 1 in 4 higher-priced purchase loans went to borrowers making less than 80 percent of the median income, and half went to those making the median income or more.

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