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Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana has filed a federal court complaint accusing Old National Bank of excluding Black Hoosiers from residential mortgage loans. The bank denies it.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana has accused Old National Bank of excluding Black Hoosiers from residential mortgage loans.

The FHCCI filed a federal court complaint against Old National on Oct. 7, which grabbed the attention of state Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis. In a statement, Pryor made a commitment to ending discriminatory housing practices.

“One of the largest items that you will ever purchase in your lifetime is a home,” she said. “So, when you don’t allow people to purchase a house, or you don’t give them a loan to purchase a house, you’re not allowing them to build their wealth.”

The concept of excluding populations, especially members of the Black community, from mortgage loans is often referred to as redlining and was made illegal in 1968 by the Fair Housing Act. The Indiana Historical Society examined the persistent practice in a series of programs in fall 2020, saying, “Redlining — the discriminatory practice by which banks refuse or limit mortgages to people of color, ethnic minorities, and low-income workers within specific geographic areas — still defines much of where we live or can live in Indianapolis.”

In 2019, Old National made just eight loans to Blacks throughout Marion County, according to FHCCI. The organization claims the bank has also disproportionately closed branches in Black neighborhoods across Indianapolis.

“Over the time period reviewed, Old National Bank has been one of the worst performers in making mortgage loans to Black home seekers in Central Indiana,” said Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center.

A message left at Old National’s Evansville headquarters Wednesday by The Statehouse File was not answered. Earlier, Old National representative Kathy Schoettlin denied redlining in an email to The Indianapolis Star.

“Old National strongly and categorically denies the claims made in this lawsuit. As a community bank, we are committed to fair, responsible and equitable lending practices,” she said. “That is simply who we are, and it’s one of the reasons we have been recognized for the past decade as one of the world’s most ethical companies.”

Old National has two branches in Anderson, according to its website, plus numerous ones in surrounding counties.

The bank is on track for a $2.5 billion merger with First Midwest Bankcorp in Chicago. Despite the possible lawsuit, it is moving forward with planning, according to National Mortgage News.

Nelson said that the United States has never effectively addressed redlining practices in a way that truly ensures they do not continue.

“The result is that they [minorities] can’t access equity when they may need it for health care issues, to put kids through school or plan for retirement, or even to pass down generational wealth to their children, which would allow them to prosper in ways that white individuals have been able to,” she said.

Pryor says that continuing redlining is contributing to systematic racism and a civil rights violation.

“Redlining in Indiana systematically strips Black Americans of their opportunities to achieve the American Dream,” she said. “I will continue to push for legislation that addresses the racial disparities that have robbed Black Hoosiers of life opportunities and our state and country from their contributions.”

Haley Pritchett is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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