Kathy Kraninger, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, takes questions from the House Financial Services Committee. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Want to know which banks target people of color for loans with high interest rates, steep fees or reverse mortgages?

Or which banks deny home loans to African Americans and Latinos even when their income shows they could easily cover the monthly payment?

You won’t be able to find out if new regulations proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau go through. The Trump administration on Thursday announced its intention to roll back rules adopted in 2015 under President Barack Obama, which dramatically expanded the public’s access to home mortgage information. At the same time, the CFPB said it planned to limit the number of banks that have to report the race and gender of consumers who get – and are denied – loans.

The CFPB also said it would be closing a web portal that provides public access to the lending data – making it harder for journalists to identify patterns that suggest discrimination and for civil rights advocates to fight it.

At issue is how information is collected and released under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, or HMDA, a 1975 anti-discrimination law that requires banks and other lenders to disclose details of every home loan application they receive.

“Data is imperative to recognize discrimination in the market and address it,” said Melissa Stegman, senior counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “It goes hand in hand with our other civil rights statutes.”

In a statement posted on its website, the agency said the government was developing a new tool and that the public would still have access to the loan data.

But consumer advocates are skeptical, and the decision to close the web portal has already drawn the ire of Democratic lawmakers. Led by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, they fired off a letter to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger on Monday, demanding the data remain available to the public.

In their letter, the senators cited “Kept Out,” a Reveal investigation that analyzed millions of loan records made available under the act, to uncover modern-day redlining in 61 cities, including Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

“Unfortunately, discrimination in lending remains,” the senators wrote. Removing the web tool “without an adequate replacement would be a step backward in HMDA’s more than 40-year trend of expanding access to valuable mortgage lending data and protecting equal housing access for all families in all markets.”

Kraninger addressed the broader rule changes in statement, saying they provide “much needed relief to smaller community banks and credit unions while still providing federal regulators and other stakeholders with the information we need under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.”

The 2018 HMDA data is the most expansive and detailed dataset to date because of changes required by the Dodd-Frank Act and the Obama administration.

It is the first to include new fields required by the 2011 act, such as the applicant’s age, property value and loan term. The CFPB under Obama went even further, requiring data on every loan’s interest rate and the relationship between an applicant’s income and total debt burden, as well as singling out reverse mortgages.

The Obama administration also asked lenders to be more specific in identifying the ethnicity of borrowers within racial groups – for example, reporting whether an Asian applicant was Vietnamese or Indian American, or whether a Latino borrower’s ancestry was from Mexico or Cuba.

The CFPB’s proposed changes could exempt lenders from reporting all the information required by the Obama administration, but not specifically enumerated under the Dodd-Frank Act.

The banking industry cheered on the proposed changes. Virginia O’Neill, senior vice president of the American Bankers Association, which has consistently opposed additional HMDA reporting requirements as burdensome, said in a statement that the industry “appreciates the CFPB’s proposals,” but withheld further comment.

But in an interview, Stegman, of the Center for Responsible Lending, said she thought it was strange that the banks’ collection of this data was being framed as a difficult.

Thanks to the Obama-era rules, “institutions have already developed the ability to collect and report the data, so it’s already being collected,” she said. “The argument around regulatory burden doesn’t make sense.”

Aaron Glantz can be reached at aglantz@revealnews.org, and Emmanuel Martinez can be reached at emartinez@revealnews.org. Follow them on Twitter: @Aaron_Glantz and @eman_thedataman.

Aaron Glantz was a senior reporter at Reveal. He is the author of "Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream." Glantz produces journalism with impact. His work has sparked more than a dozen congressional hearings, numerous laws and criminal probes by the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Pentagon and Federal Trade Commission. A two-time Peabody Award winner, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, multiple Emmy Award nominee and former John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University, Glantz has had his work has appear in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and PBS NewsHour. His previous books include "The War Comes Home" and "How America Lost Iraq."

Emmanuel Martinez

Emmanuel Martinez is a data reporter for Reveal. A graduate of UC Irvine, Martinez received his master’s degree from the University of Southern California, where he studied radio and data journalism. Prior to joining Reveal, he interned for KPCC, the Los Angeles NPR affiliate, where he helped reporters acquire, clean and analyze data. Martinez is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.