The Justice Department announced today that ESSA Bank & Trust (ESSA) has agreed to pay over $3 million to resolve allegations that it engaged in a pattern or practice of lending discrimination by redlining majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in and around Philadelphia.

Redlining is an illegal practice in which lenders avoid providing credit services to individuals living in communities of color because of the race, color or national origin of the residents in those communities.

The complaint filed in federal court today alleges that from at least 2017 to 2021, ESSA failed to provide mortgage lending services and did not serve the credit needs of majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

“For too long, residents of communities of color have been unlawfully denied equal access to credit and shut out of economic opportunities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When banks engage in redlining, they perpetuate existing patterns of segregation and widen the racial wealth gap in our country. This resolution makes clear our commitment to holding banks and financial institutions accountable for modern day redlining while ensuring access to fair lending in communities of color.”

“Accessing the American dream of owning your own home is possible only when there is equality for all in their opportunities to access lending in the residential mortgage markets,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Redlining in Greater Philadelphia has deep roots; it’s led to decades of disinvestment in communities of color. We appreciate ESSA’s prompt cooperation with the department’s investigation and their efforts that will aim to infuse lending resources and help build wealth in neighborhoods of color.”

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Under the proposed consent order, which is subject to court approval, ESSA has agreed to invest at least $2.92 million in a loan subsidy fund to increase access to credit for home mortgage, improvement and refinance loans, as well as home equity loans, and lines of credit, in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the bank’s lending area. ESSA has also agreed to spend an additional $125,000 on community partnerships and $250,000 on advertising, outreach, consumer financial education, and credit counseling, in an effort to expand the bank’s services in majority Black and Hispanic communities. The consent order also requires the bank to hire two new mortgage loan officers to serve its existing branches in West Philadelphia and conduct a research-based market study to help identify the needs for financial services in communities of color.

The department opened its investigation into ESSA’s lending practices after receiving a referral from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. ESSA fully cooperated with the department’s investigation and worked expeditiously to resolve these allegations.

In October 2021, the department launched its Combating Redlining Initiative as a coordinated enforcement effort to address this persistent form of discrimination against communities of color. Since the initiative was launched, the department has announced seven redlining cases and settlements and secured $87 million in relief for communities of color that have been victims of lending discrimination across the country.