A New Jersey-based bank has agreed to pay $13 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against by intentionally denying housing-related loans and credits to people of color. This form of discrimination, known as redlining, was banned under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. According to the US Department of Justice, Lakeland Bank did not provide mortgages to people living in black neighborhoods and Hispanics from Newark and elsewhere in Essex, Somerset and the Union. counties. The DOJ also noted that all of the bank’s branches were located in white neighborhoods. As part of the settlement, Lakeland Bank admitted no wrongdoing.
New Jersey’s housing market – like those in the rest of the United States – has cooled. The New Jersey Association of Realtors says inflation, rising interest rates and fears of a recession have weighed on buyers and sellers this summer. There are 20% fewer homes on the market compared to a year ago. Mortgage rates have gone up; On Thursday, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 6.82%, according to Bankrate. NJ Realtors reports that August closed sales were down more than 16% from a year ago. Buyers are not the only ones on the sidelines. Potential sellers are also withholding listing their homes.
One of New Jersey’s largest employers is raising workers’ wages. Amazon is raising the average starting wage for its warehouse and transportation workers to more than $19 an hour, from $18 previously. The pay rise will cost Amazon nearly $1 billion next year. The company hopes this change will help it attract and retain workers, as the labor market remains tight.
Victims of Bernie Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme are receiving another payment to cover their losses. The US Department of Justice said an additional $372 million from the Madoff Relief Fund would be distributed to victims of the scam. More than 27,000 will receive funds from this eighth installment of the government fund. After this last installment, more than $4 billion will have been distributed and those who got scammed have recouped an average of 88% of their losses. New Jersey has had its share of Madoff victims, including former state senator Loretta Weinberg.