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

…the government has used regulatory and political pressure to force banks and other government-controlled or regulated private entities to make loans they would not otherwise make and to reduce lending standards so more applicants would have access to mortgage financing… the CRA was used to pressure banks into making loans they would not otherwise have made and to adopt looser lending standards that would make mortgage loans possible for individuals who could not meet the down payment and other standards that had previously been applied routinely by banks and other housing lenders... a law that was originally intended to encourage banks to use safe and sound practices in lending now required them to be innovative and flexible--a clear requirement for the relaxation of lending standards.

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Peter Wallison, AEI Online

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.

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Michelle Minton, Competitive Enterprise Institute

…in an attempt to increase homeownership-particularly among minorities and the less affluent-an attack on underwriting standards has been undertaken by virtually every branch of the government since the early 1990s.

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Stan Leibowitz, National Review.

The roots of this crisis go back to the Carter administration. That was when government officials, egged on by left-wing activists, began accusing mortgage lenders of racism and "redlining" because urban blacks were being denied mortgages at a higher rate than suburban whites. The pressure to make more loans to minorities (read: to borrowers with weak credit histories) became relentless. Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, empowering regulators to punish banks that failed to "meet the credit needs" of "low-income, minority, and distressed neighborhoods." Lenders responded by loosening their underwriting standards and making increasingly shoddy loans.

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Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe.

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.