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Housing Bill Threatened by Rift on Help for Disadvantaged

Efforts to overhaul the U.S. housing-finance system could hinge on how far Congress is willing to go to ensure that young, low-income and minority homebuyers can get mortgages.

A bipartisan bill drafted by Senate Banking Committee leaders Tim Johnson and Mike Crapo relies on incentives to persuade financiers to lend to groups with higher risk profiles. Consumer and civil-rights organizations are pushing instead for a mandate that those groups must be served, a concept that has become a political flash point since the housing bubble burst.