The Office of Thrift Supervision has issued new guidelines for lending programs aimed at disadvantaged borrowers.

To establish lending programs targeted at minorities and other groups that historically have had difficulty obtaining credit, thrifts must establish plans in writing and describe the class of borrowers who will benefit, the agency said. The prospective borrowers must be likely to be denied credit or receive less favorable terms than other customers under the thrift's standard lending policies.

Thrifts must also have detailed procedures and standards for extending credit under the program.

OTS Director Ellen Seidman said the guidance was necessary because the agency has received repeated inquiries about how to set up the programs. Though lenders are prohibited from basing credit decisions on race, religion, or gender, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act exempts special programs created to assist consumers likely to be denied credit.

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