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

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.

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

The CRA has created opportunities for rent seeking and financial and logistical burdens for all lenders. The Act forces lenders to spend money, time, and resources on documentation, PR, and other compliance costs.

Michelle Minton, Competitive Enterprise Institute

There are also subsidies to certain types of mortgages. The Community Reinvestment Act bans so-called ‘red lining’ -- requiring banks to offer mortgages in the entire geographic area in which they operate, not just to do business in suburbs. Loans in profitable areas were then used to subsidize loans in areas where banks were losing money.

John Lott Jr., Fox News

The Community Reinvestment Act should be repealed--not reformed or restricted but repealed! For no conceivable set of regulations on a bank is consistent with the objective of the Act to meet ‘the credit needs of its entire community, including low and moderate-income neighborhoods, consistent with safe and sound operation of such institution.’ The Community Reinvestment Act was the wrong solution to a genuine problem, for the most part created by other government regulations. Until recently, federal restrictions on interstate banking and state restrictions on intrastate branching severely restricted bank competition in local markets and the potential for geographic diversity of loan portfolios. These restrictions have been substantially reduced, promising a more competitive banking system that is more responsive to the interests of both depositors and borrowers and less vulnerable to adverse economic conditions in specific regions...Don't try to fix the Community Reinvestment Act. It can't be done. Repeal it.

William A. Niskanen, Chairman, Cato Institute. Testimony, Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, House Committee on Banking and Financial Services


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.