The Fed recently completed a study that looked at how shopping for a home and looking for a mortgage can go awry.
The agency was looking for "points where the possibility of discrimination could creep in," said Richard C. Walker, assistant vice president and community affairs officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Mr. Walker said the first leg of the study, conducted in Cleveland, looked at the involvement of real estate agents, mortgage brokers, banks, savings banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, appraisers, and mortgage insurance companies.
The goal, he said, was to identify "when discrimination is occurring in a locale, and work together on solutions."
The Fed has not disclosed specific incidences of abuse. But Mr. Foster, speaking at a mortgage conference sponsored by the Strategic Research Institute, said the program had fostered some changes.
For instance, after three widely divergent appraisals were received on a newly renovated home, the Fed worked with the city's appraiser trade group to launch a training program.
Other instances were more subtle. The Multiple Listing Service in Cleveland, for example, was using the word "conventional" in regard to residential properties.
Some ethnic borrowers didn't qualify as buyers since their loan commitments were part of special, not conventional, lending programs. The service has agreed to discontinue using the word in its listings, Mr. Walker said.
The Fed program will fan out next year to Boston, New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.
Mr. Walker and other industry analysts said it wasn't surprising that some abnormalities were found. "This is an industry that was designed to sell single-family homes in white residential neighborhoods," Mr. Walker said.
One lender said he liked the idea that the Fed was pinpointing problems, but he added that the process would require much more effort to prevent discrimination.
"It's going to take more than one person or one organization," said Larry J. Young, assistant vice president at Hibernia National Bank. "If only one does the right thing, you're still not benefiting the community.