Menino to call for home loan reports

Mayor will ask banks to detail activities

Mayor Thomas M. Menino will speak at a housing conference . Mayor Thomas M. Menino will speak at a housing conference . (Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)
By Todd Wallack
Globe Staff / May 5, 2010

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Suspecting that city residents are being unfairly denied mortgages, Mayor Thomas M. Menino today will call on banks to issue quarterly reports detailing their home loan activities.

Menino will make the request at a housing conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

“There are a lot of families out there who want to invest in a home and our city, but they still can’t buy,’’ Menino will say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by the Globe. “In a matter of months, we have gone from the days of too easy credit to the days of nearly impossible credit for home buyers. Instead of being priced out; now they are being frozen out.’’

Menino argues that the quarterly reports will show how much banks are actually lending in the city and “help us reach a sound middle ground that’s good for banks and good for neighborhoods.’’

In addition to using the reports to pressure banks to step up lending, city officials hope the data will identify problems that prevent borrowers from getting mortgages and allow officials to figure out how to help.

Several local banks said they would be open to discussing the mayor’s proposal with him, but declined to comment further on the quarterly reports.

Bank of America spokesman TJ Crawford said the bank already works with Menino on many issues and “would be happy to discuss this proposal with him.’’ Eastern Bank spokesman Andrew Ravens said the bank will consider Menino’s proposal, but couldn’t comment without seeing the details.

The Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association and two of the state’s other large banks, Citizens Bank and Sovereign Bank, did not return calls seeking comment.

Generally most local lenders said they are continuing to provide mortgages to qualified home buyers, despite the recent financial crisis. But financial institutions are also under pressure from regulators and shareholders to sock away enough capital in case the economy remains weak and to avoid issuing mortgages borrowers can’t afford — the types of loans banks were criticized for making during the housing boom.

Regardless, city officials believe that banks have tightened their lending standards too much, such as requiring buyers to submit pristine credit reports. Only about 25 percent of people who apply for home buyer assistance from the city are currently able to find and purchase a home, down from 39 percent a year ago.

Banks are already required to report detailed mortgage data once a year under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, passed in 1975.

But the information is generally only released in massive data files nine months after the calendar year, making it too cumbersome and dated for most local residents and officials to find useful.

In addition, banks typically file additional quarterly reports with information on their lending nationwide with regulators, shareholders, and the public.

For instance, Bank of America released its first-quarter “lending and investing report’’ last week.

Menino has previously tried other measures to address the wave of foreclosures in the city.

But that hasn’t been enough to eliminate foreclosures in the hardest hit parts of the city.

Boston has 866 bank-owned properties in the city, many of which are boarded up or neglected.

Menino says the properties “invite vandalism and crime, depressing the property values for everyone living nearby.’’

Todd Wallack can be reached at