WASHINGTON -- The Community Reinvestment Act has failed to end housing discrimination and promote loans for community needs, the chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission told a Senate committee.

The chairman, Arthur Fleming, said lax enforcement of the 1977 law was one of the reasons for the failure.

Citing a study by the Federal Reserve Board of lenders' filings under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Mr. Fleming told the Senate Banking Committee:

"If you're black, it's twice as likely that your mortgage applications will be rejected as it is if you're white, even if your income is the same.

"And if you live in a low-income neighborhood, many lenders probably have no desire to provide loans for mortgages in your neighborhood."

The CRA has flaws, he said, and "regulators are not enforcing the law aggressively." Even if they were, he said, the law imposes no substantive penalties for violations.

He warned that the recent racial distrubances in Los Angeles would be repeated elsewhere unless action is taken against "economic and social inequities."

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