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

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,

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.

There’s little doubt that the rating agencies helped inflate the housing bubble. But when we round up all the culprits, we shouldn’t ignore the regulators and affordable-housing advocates who pushed lenders to make loans in low-income neighborhoods for reasons other than the only one that makes sense: likely repayment… in 1995 the Clinton administration added tough new regulations. The federal government required banks that wanted 'outstanding' ratings under the act to demonstrate, numerically, that they were lending both in poor neighborhoods and to lower-income households. Banks were now being judged not on how their loans performed but on how many such loans they made. This undermined the regulatory emphasis on safety and soundness.

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Howard Husock, New York Times.

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.

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.