An upstate bank with a mortgage lending office in Riverhead has been accused in a lawsuit of discriminating against first-time home buyers who are African-American.
Employees of Kingston-based Ulster Savings Bank on Long Island, and in several upstate communities, allegedly offered “less favorable and lower loan packages and options to African Americans than to their white counterparts, even as the African Americans presented with higher income, more cash savings, lower monthly liabilities and better credit scores than those white counterparts,” according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in White Plains.
Ulster’s top executives could not be reached for comment last night. Voicemail messages left for the bank’s three employees in Riverhead were not immediately returned.
The suit was filed by the Fair Housing Justice Center and three African-Americans who served as “testers” in the center’s nearly two-year investigation of Ulster, according to court documents.
The center, based in Long Island City, Queens, is a civil rights group focused on housing issues.
In the suit, attorneys for the center said it began examining Ulster’s lending record because of the small number of blacks receiving mortgages based on federal statistics. The lawyers said out of Ulster’s 112 home loans on Long Island between 2011 and 2015, only one was to a black borrower.
The center sent testers, both African-American and white, to the Ulster mortgage lending office at 633 E. Main St. in Riverhead in late 2014 and this May and June.
The suit also alleges that African-Americans were discouraged from purchasing homes in predominantly white communities.