Community Reinvestment Act

Community Reinvestment Act

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has been critical to the expansion of responsible credit for low- and moderate-income borrowers since its passage in 1977. Designed to address low levels of lending activity in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, it has helped spur a growing range of successful affordable loan programs that reduce credit access barriers. CRA expands the overall efficiency of the banking system by incentivizing banks to tap profit opportunities in underserved markets.

The Community Reinvestment Act ensures that banks make resources available to low-income or otherwise disadvantaged communities by offering “equal access to lending, investment and services to all those in an institution's geographic assessment area-at least three to five miles from each branch. In the case of large banks with many branches, the geographic area may encompass an entire county or even a state.” This policy was created as a direct response to “redlining”, a discriminatory practice used by bankers to avoid making loans to people of color or lower-income areas.

Cry Wolf Quotes

There is no evidence of significant discrimination in mortgage lending.

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George J. Bentson, a specialist in financial regulation at Emory University. New York Times.

The subprime mortgage market, which makes funds available to borrowers with impaired credit or little or no credit history, offers a good example of competition at work…To the contrary, it was lenders in the control group that refocused their efforts in line with the mid-1990s boom in lending in low-income neighborhoods. In fact, lending in low-income neighborhoods grew faster than other types of lending at institutions not covered by CRA, whereas low-income lending grew at the same rate as other types of lending activity for CRA-covered lenders. As a group, lenders not covered by CRA devoted a growing proportion of their home-purchase lending to low-income communities, with the community lending share of their loan portfolios rising from 11 percent in 1993 to 14.3 percent in 1997. In contrast, CRA-covered lenders, as a group, devoted about the same proportion of their home-purchase loans to low-income neighborhoods in 1997 as they did in 1993. In both years, their community-lending share was about 11.5 percent. Even though those institutions were subject to CRA, their lending in low-income communities grew no faster than other lending. Those results would not be expected if CRA were the impetus for increases in lending in low-income neighborhoods. The data, however, are consistent with deregulation and technological advances leading to lower information costs and increased competition in the mortgage market. Independent mortgage companies tend to have more leeway to specialize in relatively risky lending than their more conservative and more heavily regulated counterparts in the banking industry. It is not surprising, then, that independent companies took the lead in focusing on lending activity in the riskier segments of the mortgage market… The inescapable conclusion is that progress predicated on technology, financial innovation, and competition—not CRA—has broadened the U.S. financial services marketplace.

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Jeffrey Gunther, Cato Institute

It is simply wrong-headed policy…[Federal and state banking regulations] require or aggressively nudge banks into subsidizing parts of the community [The proposals] would only aggravate the problem.

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Lawrence J. White, a professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business, New York Times.

Any review of the history of the affordable mortgage movement in America demonstrates the power that CRA had in helping to shred mortgage underwriting standards throughout the industry and exposing us to the kind of market meltdown we've experienced. “If form follows, soon banks and other financial institutions operating under CRA will be cudgeled into lending to small businesses based on race and gender, which will be the opening of a new round of lower lending standards in the very risky small-business sector. The effort to save and extend CRA in the face of its role in the mortgage market's massive meltdown is testament to the unique power of this legislation to nourish an entire industry of nonprofits that, like Acorn, have been reliable supporters of politicians such as Barney Frank, Maxine Waters and a former community organizer and associate of Acorn by the name of Barack Obama.

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Steven Malanga, Investor’s Business Daily,

Evidence

Backgrounders & Briefs

Good Rules: Ten Stories Of Successful Regulation

Demos looks at ten laws and rules that we take for granted.

Community Reinvestment Act Policy Brief

By Philip Ashton, UIC

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has been critical to the expansion of responsible credit for low- and moderate-income borrowers since its passage in 1977.