The Federal Home Loan Bank Board has agreed to step up its enforcement of civil rights laws designed to end discriminations in mortgage lending against blacks and women by savings and loan associations across the country.
The agreement was reached as part of an out-of-court settlement of a suit filed last April by a coalition of civil rights groups, including the National Urgan League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.
The suit alleged that the federal goverment's four major financial regulatory agencies - the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board - had "failed and refused to undertake enforcement actions against (financial) insitututions where discriminatory practices appear to exist."
The FHLBB is the first of the four agencies to reach a settlement with the civil rights organizations. Martin E. Sloane, an attorney at the Washington-based National Commettee Against Discrimination in Housing, said he was "hopeful" that the other regulatory agencies would follow the FHLBB's lead before that suit goes to trial.
Among other things, the FHLBB has agreed to "use its best efforts" to collect data on the racial and sexual characteristics of mortgage loan applicants at the more than 4,000 savings and loan associations under FHLBB supervision.
Sloane said extensive and accurate data collection is the "one important element from which everything else flows" because, once the data is available, it will then be possible for the FHLBB to monitor mortgage lending trends by S&Ls to determine whether they are engaging in discriminatory practices.
It will also be possible to determine whether an unusually high number of qualified applicants - as opposed solely to those who receive mortgage loans - are being turned away because of their race or sex.
The FHLBB also agreed to continue training its examiners in civil rights matters and to provide "extensive" training to the person in each of the FHLBB's 12 district offices in the civil rights area.
In addition, "the FHLBB agreed to develop a process for handling discrimination complaints and to "advise all insured institutions of its commitment to vigorous enforcement of its non-discrimination regulations."
A spokesman for the FHLBB said yesterday that the regulatory agency has been attempting to enforce its non-discrimination regulations. The spokesman characterized the settlement agreement as "just one more thing we've done" to see that savings and loan associations do not discriminate.