The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced a settlement agreement with Cornerstone Mortgage Company, a national mortgage lender based in Houston, which HUD had accused of engaging in discriminatory lending practices against expectant mothers.
John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said the federal agency is investigating close to a dozen other alleged cases of discrimination against pregnant women. “This is the first in a series of actions,” he said during a news conference and telephone conference call with reporters in New York City.
“Pregnancy is not a basis to deny or delay a loan. It’s just that simple,” Trasviña added in a statement.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination in sales, rental, and lending based on a person’s sex or familial status.
“Typically, borrowers are unaware that this type of conduct is against the law, said Trasviña.
Under the terms of the agreement, which makes no determination of wrongdoing, Cornerstone agreed to pay $15,000 to Elizabeth Budde, an oncologist living in Washington state, based on her claims that she was initially denied a mortgage loan even though she was on paid maternity leave and planned to return to work.
Budde had been approved for a loan but ran into problems with Cornerstone after an e-mail to the doctor bounced back with information that she was on maternity leave, Trasviña said.
Cornerstone will also create a $750,000 victims’ fund to compensate other borrowers who allegedly experienced discrimination because they were on pregnancy or maternity leave at the time they were applying for a loan, according to HUD.
In a separate action, HUD is charging Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and others with engaging in pregnancy discrimination in issuing mortgage insurance in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
“We need protection against lenders and landlords who would discriminate against us for being pregnant,” Emma Cooper-Server, a mother and pediatric social worker representing the group MomsRising, said at the press conference.