WASHINGTON -- A consumer group said Thursday that there is as much mortgage-lending discrimination now as a year ago, when the Federal Reserve Board issued its initial study under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

Half of 46 financial institutions surveyed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- or Acorn -- reduced the gap in loan-approval rates between minorities and whites last year.

But that improvement was offset by a growing racial disparity at the other 23 institutions.

'Locked Out of the Dream'

"At this rate of change, generations of minority families will continue to be locked out of the dream of homeownership," said Acorn president Maude Hurd.

Acorn said black and Hispanic applicants for single-family mortgages continued to be rejected at two to four times the rate of white applicants.

The organization looked at 1991 data released by banks to comply with the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The information has been released by individual institutions and is to be aggregated by the Federal Reserve later this month.

Although small, the Acorn study included large banks, mortgage companies, and thrifts in 13 cities, and may give some indication of what the Fed will report.

"The second round of data is out -- and the severity of the problems facing minority families is undiminished," Ms. Hurd said.

Changes in Both Directions

At First American Bank in Washington, blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely as whites to be rejected in 1991, compared with nine times as likely in 1990.

"We're not really doing anything different than we've done before; it's just finally paying off," said Fred L. Bollerer, chairman of First American Metro Corp., the community outreach arm. "We have in this organization focused on corporate citizenship for many many years."

In contrast, at the Northern Trust Corp. in Chicago, minorities were 17 times as likely to be rejected in 1991 up from five times in 1990.

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