The Community Reinvestment Act, first passed in 1977 under Jimmy Carter, was intended to increase minority homeownership. It grew out of charges that banks were “redlining” entire inner-city neighborhoods as bad credit risks. Banks now were forced to perform outreach to these areas.
In the ’70s and ’80s, banks could show that they were trying to do that by advertising in minority newspapers and having representatives sit on the boards of local groups. In other words, they were rated on the effort made and not on the results achieved. Creditworthiness still mattered.
In 1995, as Howard Husock pointed out eight years ago in City Journal, “the Clinton Treasury Department’s 1995 regulations made getting a satisfactory CRA rating much harder. The new regulations de-emphasized subjective assessment measures in favor of strictly numerical ones. Bank examiners would use federal home-loan data, broken down by neighborhood, income group, and race, to rate banks on performance.”
Creditworthiness and due diligence no longer mattered. As a 1999 New York Times editorial observed: “Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Bill Clinton administration to expand mortgage loans among low- and moderate-income people and felt pressure to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.”Source
That was the start of the housing bubble that almost brought down the US Economy. But if one near depression isn’t good enough for you, Barney Frank and his Democratic buddies have a surprise…an even stronger Community Reinvestment Act
This morning House Financial Services Committee chairman Rep. Barney Frank held a hearing on H.R. 1479, the “Community Reinvestment Modernization Act of 2009.” The bill’s purpose is “to close the wealth gap in the United States” by increasing “home ownership and small business ownership for low- and moderate-income borrowers and persons of color.” It would extend CRA’s strict lending requirements to non-bank institutions like credit unions, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders. It would also make CRA more explicitly race-based by requiring CRA standards to be applied to minorities, regardless of income, going beyond earlier requirements that applied solely to low- and moderate-income areas.
Republicans on the committee strongly oppose the plan. “Instead of looking to expand the number of institutions that must abide by Community Investment Act regulations,” California Rep. Ed Royce said in prepared opening remarks at today’s hearing, “I think we should reassess the role this and other government mandates played in the financial collapse and consider scaling it back.”
In private conversation, other Republicans were more emphatic. “There is clearly arguable evidence that the CRA is at the root of this financial meltdown,” says one GOP committee member. “So what do they do? They try to expand CRA.”
Ah, but the Democrats are in denial:
But Democrats, led by H.R. 1479 sponsor Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, claimed that expansion of CRA is much-needed. “Congress has passed a number of laws designed to combat redlining and eliminate housing discrimination,” Johnson said at the hearing. “Unfortunately, we all know that redlining still occurs.”
Then there is the ACORN angle. Republican critics point out that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has used the CRA to pressure banks to pour money into ACORN and its affiliates, allowing ACORN to facilitate loans to clearly unqualified borrowers. Now, with ACORN under fire after a series of undercover videos showing ACORN workers in Baltimore, Washington DC, New York, and California openly encouraging prostitution, tax evasion, and other crimes, Republicans on the committee are citing the CRA-ACORN connection as yet another reason the Act should not be expanded. Johnson’s bill has 51 co-sponsors, including some of the most liberal members of the House, like Reps. Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Bobby Rush, Steve Cohen, and Barbara Lee. Given the Democrats’ tremendous numerical superiority in the House, if the majority wants to expand CRA, Republicans will be unable to stop it.
Holy Cow !! Are these guys clueless or what? Do they read a freaking newspaper? The Community Reinvestment Act helped to cause the financial mess we are in now.
As long as people like President Obama and Barney Frank deny their role in creating the banking crisis, they are free to start another one. Its time for a real change, time to vote them all out of office.