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

In 1989, sympathetic members of Congress got the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act amended to force banks to collect racial data on mortgage applicants; this allowed various studies to be ginned up that seemed to validate the original accusation… bank regulators required the loosened underwriting standards, with approval by politicians and the chattering class. A 1995 strengthening of the Community Reinvestment Act required banks to find ways to provide mortgages to their poorer communities. It also let community activists intervene at yearly bank reviews, shaking the banks down for large pots of money.

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Stan Liebovitz, New York Post.

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

They say, ‘Well, this is a failure of the markets. Oh, this is about greed on Wall Street.’… the problem here is government intervention in the free markets. 1995, when Bill Clinton decided to tell, you know, [then-Treasury Secretary] Robert Rubin to rewrite the rules that govern the Community Reinvestment Act and push all these institutions to lend to minority communities, many were very risky loans. That was a noble idea, perhaps, but that certainly wasn't following free-market principles. This big pressure on institutions to dole out money and these risky loans started this whole ball rolling at Fannie and Freddie.

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Laura Ingraham, The O’Reilly Factor.

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.

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John Lott Jr., Fox News

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.