WASHINGTON — At the height of the 2008 economic collapse, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the elimination of a discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining” was responsible for instigating the meltdown.
“It all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone,” Bloomberg, now a Democratic presidential candidate, said at a forum that was hosted by Georgetown University in September 2008. “Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighborhoods and said, ‘People in these neighborhoods are poor, they’re not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas.’ ”
He continued: “And then Congress got involved — local elected officials, as well — and said, ‘Oh that’s not fair, these people should be able to get credit.’ And once you started pushing in that direction, banks started making more and more loans where the credit of the person buying the house wasn’t as good as you would like.”
Bloomberg, a billionaire who built a media and financial services empire before turning to electoral politics, was correct that the financial crisis was triggered in part by banks extending loans to borrowers who were ill-suited to repay them. But by attributing the meltdown to the elimination of redlining, a practice used by banks to discriminate against minority borrowers, Bloomberg appears to be blaming policies intended to bring equality to the housing market.
The term redlining comes from the “red lines” those in the financial industry would draw on a map to denote areas deemed ineligible for credit.
Campaign spokesman Stu Loeser said that Bloomberg “attacked predatory lending” as mayor and, if elected president, has a plan to “help a million more Black families buy a house, and counteract the effects of redlining and the subprime mortgage crisis.’’
After this story was published, Loeser added: ‘‘He’s saying that something bad — the financial crisis — followed something good, which is the fight against redlining that he was part of as mayor.”
His redlining remarks are the latest instance of past comments by him that have resurfaced in recent days that make him appear racially insensitive.