Housing was not a major – or even passing – area of focus in Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, though the issue of redlining came up a few times as candidates discussed tax policy and each other’s records.
(Redlining is the practice of denying mortgages – or other goods or services – to whole neighborhoods on the basis of race or ethnicity. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 made all redlining practices illegal.)
Here’s a look at what the candidates had to say on the issue:
Senator Elizabeth Warren referred to former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s record, accusing him of supporting redlining in the past.
SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.
Bloomberg later denied this:
CHUCK TODD: Mayor Bloomberg, you seemed to imply that redlining and stopping that is — that stopping redlining has somehow contributed to the financial crisis.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: No, that’s exactly wrong.
CHUCK TODD: And that was the implication that came out in your quote, so I want to give you a chance to clarify this.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: I’ve been well on the record against redlining since I worked on Wall Street. I was against during the financial crisis. I’ve been against it since.
The financial crisis came about because the people that took the mortgages, packaged them, and other people bought them, those were — that’s where all the disaster was. Redlining is still a practice some places, and we’ve got to cut it out. But it’s just not true.
Finally, former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to mistakenly refer to issuing loans in poor communities as redlining as part of a larger answer on tax policy and economic development:
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: No. Taxes on small businesses won’t go up. As a matter of fact, we’re going to make sure there’s more money available for small businesses in the Latino community and the black community to be able to get the capital to start businesses.
And at the Treasury Department, there’s going to be a window available where we significantly increase the amount of money available so people can borrow the money to get started. They have demonstrated they’re incredibly successful. We should not be raising taxes on them. We should start rewarding work, not just wealth.
That’s why we have to change the tax code the way it is. That’s why the wealthy have to start to pay their fair share. And that’s why we have to focus on giving people the ability to garner wealth, generate wealth.
And that’s why this whole idea of redlining, lending to people in areas wasn’t the cause of Wall Street failing. The greed of Wall Street was the reason why it occurred, not redlining.
Until the next debate …