In the early days of the recent financial crisis, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore sued Wells Fargo bank alleging that the financial institution had engaged in what has come to be known as reverse redlining: lending money to residents of communities of color on unfair terms.  This is to be contrasted with traditional redlining, which came about when the federal government, starting in the 1930s, refused to guarantee mortgages in certain communities, and banks followed that lead and refused to make loans in those communities, primarily communities of color.

Back in 2012, the reverse redlining suit was settled by Wells Fargo.  The lawyers for the Mayor and City Council described the key components of the settlement as follows:

Under its agreement with the City, Wells Fargo will provide $4.5 million in direct down payment assistance to qualifying Baltimore homebuyers. Wells Fargo will provide an additional $3 million for the City to use for priority housing and foreclosure-related initiatives. As part of the agreement, Wells Fargo has also committed to making $425 million in prime mortgage loans in Baltimore over the next five years, $125 million of which will be in low and moderate income neighborhoods.

Today, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition has released a report indicating that banks in Baltimore seem to be returning to their discriminatory ways, but this time, engaging in old-fashioned redlining again: denying credit to borrowers residing in predominantly minority communities within city limits.  Key findings of the report are that:

· There are very different patterns of lending in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties, with disinvestment in most of the city and affluence in the suburbs.

· In Baltimore City, race matters most in mortgage lending. Lending is greater in neighborhoods with larger white than African American populations, and there are tremendous disparities in home lending for African American and white residents.

· In the surrounding suburban counties, economic factors are the most useful in predicting home purchase lending activity.

· It is very difficult for borrowers of any income to be approved for mortgage loans in Baltimore City, where low- to moderate-income (LMI) census tracts are the majority. An LMI applicant is more likely to receive a mortgage loan in wealthier neighborhoods in Baltimore County.


Posted by: Ray Brescia | November 13, 2015

Read Albany Law’s Government Law Center Annual Report

Please read the annual report of the Government Law Center for the 2014-2015 Academic Year.  Highlights of the report include:

  • Our symposia: which covered such topics as: Police-Community Relations, featuring U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr.; the Separation of Powers between the Executive and Legislative Branches in New York State, with former New York Gov. David Paterson; and the Lessons of Detroit’s Fiscal Woes, keynoted by ex-lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch, and carried out in conjunction with the Institute for Financial Market Regulation and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute for Government at the State University of New York;
  • Scholarship and activities focused on access to justice, laws impacting economic development, and urban planning;
  • Events fostering entrepreneurship and innovation;
  • Updates from the Albany Citizens’ Police Review Board;
  • Details on the new Government Law Center Fellows Program; and
  • An overview of Semester-in-Practice program where our students engage in full-time, semester-long internship placements in such locations as the White House, the NYS Legislature, Pfizer, Her Justice, and the NYPD.


In a recent issue of the Albany Government Law Review, the contributors address the troubling trend in our criminal justice system toward the criminalization of mental illness and psychiatric disabilities.  For a quick overview of the issue, please read my Introduction, which is available for download here.  It provides an brief summary of the articles that attempt to address just some of the many questions that this troubling trend raises. The submissions in this issue offer insightful analysis and offer compelling, if, at times, controversial, responses to these questions.

To read all of the articles in the issue, check out the Albany Government Law Review’s archives page, and scroll down to Volume 8, Number 2, for the complete list of articles for download.

This week, a deal was announced to preserve a large chunk of the quality housing in the center of Manhattan, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, as affordable housing.  The story of the battle over this housing project really began in the mid-2000s as speculators sought to convert the housing, which was originally built for middle class families, into luxury, expensive housing.

Read about the latest developments in this ongoing housing saga, read here.

For an overview of the legal battle to fend off the original developers, read here.


A joint project of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region (the Loan Fund) and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School (Albany Law), the Regional Innovation Lab will work with county, municipal and local governments from the eleven counties of the Greater Capital Region in New York State to provide technical assistance and strategic support on critical housing, economic development, infrastructure, sustainability and transportation initiatives throughout the region.  This technical assistance and support will work with governments to plan, create, and execute innovative initiatives that will help foster sustainable and regional integrated housing and economic development throughout the Greater Capital Region.  Elements of this Regional innovation Lab will include the following:

  • Regional Innovation Generator.

 The Loan Fund and Albany Law will collaborate to assist county, municipal and local governments in the eleven counties of the Greater Capital Region to develop, create, and execute innovative initiatives that can help foster regional economic development throughout the Region.  Such projects can include initiatives to spur local economic development, regional cooperation around public transportation, increased availability of affordable housing, the initiation of projects to lower greenhouse gas emissions from public buildings, and initiatives to attract tourism and startup businesses to the Region.

  •  Land Bank Institute.

This program would provide ongoing technical legal assistance and training to land banks throughout the Greater Capital Region, with a particular focus on a range of financial and legal issues affecting the operation of land banks, including but not limited to: finance, formation, administrative law, open government law, human resources law, local and municipal zoning ordinances and other areas affecting the proper functioning of land banks as community development engines.

  • Vacant Properties Technical Assistance Initiative.

Similar to the Land Bank Law Institute, this initiative would provide technical financial and legal assistance and training to municipalities and other local governments that are interested in effective means of grappling with the oversupply of vacant and abandoned properties throughout the state, regardless of whether those communities have a land bank.

  • START-UP NY Advocacy Center

 The Loan Fund will collaborate with Albany Law to provide technical assistance to early stage start-up companies currently participating in the START-UP NY program or that are poised to do so but require assistance to get them ready to take advantage of the program. The Regional Innovation Lab will provide much needed technical assistance to entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own  companies in areas such as developing a viable business plan, choosing the type of entity and forming the business, addressing tax strategies, protecting intellectual property, managing labor and employment issues, licensing and securing venture capital. These free services could be offered throughout the Greater Capital Region to early-stage companies looking to benefit from the START-UP NY program, yet require critical technical to help them get ready to participate in and gain access to its many benefits.

The Partners: The Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region and Albany Law School are both not-for-profits organized under New York State law and recognized as tax exempt organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.  The Community Loan Fund is a federally recognized Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).

The Greater Capital Region: The eleven counties served by the Regional Innovation Lab shall include: Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington Counties.

Read More about the Regional Innovation Lab here.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | September 24, 2015

On Papal Visits, Marriage Equality, and Politics

As the Pope addresses Congress, it is an appropriate time to consider the interplay between politics and religion, especially given the recent controversy that has buzzed around local officials refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  With these issues in mind, please consider my recent piece on this topic in the Huffington Post.

If you have a moment, please check out my recent post on the Huffington Post entitled “Lawyers Have Worked in Amazon-Style Conditions for Decades.”  In it, I discuss the recent controversy concerning the working conditions at, and explore the extent to which those conditions are similar to those under which many lawyers have labored all too frequently in recent memory.  It also explores whether such conditions are conducive to creative, meaningful, and rewarding work.  If one does think of the practive of law as creative, meaningful and rewarding (which I do), it might lead one to question the wisdom of such working conditions for lawyers.

Looking for ways to support progressive legal campaigns now that the Marriage Equality effort was victorious?  My latest article on the Huffington Post explores a new platform for funding social change litigation.  Please read it if of interest.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | June 17, 2015

Another Voice for Access to Justice

Read Theresa Amato’s great piece in The New York Times on connecting lawyers to the communities where they are needed and expanding access to justice.

Posted by: Ray Brescia | June 9, 2015

Bending the Cost Curve of Legal Services

Please read my latest Huffington Post piece where I explore how technology is addressing the need to reduce the cost of legal services and the potential pitfalls associated with expanding access to justice in this way.

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