NFHA and Advocates Submit Comment Letter to OCC, FDIC, Federal Reserve Board Regarding Proposed Community Reinvestment Act Rule
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2022
Media Contact: IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org
Groups argue scope of Community Reinvestment Act evaluations should be expanded to include race and national origin
Washington, D.C. — The National Fair Housing Alliance (“NFHA”) and allied advocacy organizations have submitted a comment letter to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve (“Federal Reserve Board”), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) in response to their joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (“CRA”).
“In order for the CRA to live up to its promise of reversing the harms of redlining in underserved communities, the CRA regulations must be amended to explicitly factor in race and account for structural changes that have taken place in banking. The Congressional record clearly demonstrated an intent for the banking needs of all underserved communities, including communities of color, to be met,” said Nikitra Bailey, NFHA’s Executive Vice President. “Nothing within the statute prohibits the consideration of race, and regulators must read the statute more inclusively and make sure banks fulfill their unique public responsibilities in an equitable fashion. Centering the CRA around racial equity and fair housing enforcement will help the Agencies fulfill their obligation to operationalize banks’ affirmative obligation to serve their entire communities.”
Racial inequality harms our nation and the economy. A continued sole focus on income means that the CRA will never meet its mark and serve as a tool to close persistent disparities in racial homeownership and small business ownership, and wealth gaps. Therefore, the Agencies should consider Special Purpose Credit Programs (SPCPs) as examples of loan products or programs that facilitate mortgage and consumer lending and should remove language suggesting that only SPCPs designed for LMI individuals would qualify for CRA credit. Further, the Agencies should review the framework of the First Generation Downpayment Assistance Program NFHA and the Center for Responsible Lending developed to learn how to design race-conscious programs in a manner that comports with legal precedent.
The Agencies’ focus on disaster and climate-related activities that benefit LMI areas is too narrow, and should be expanded to include communities of color. Including communities of color will help ensure the Agencies are fulfilling their obligation under the Fair Housing Act’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision.
We commend the Agencies for undertaking this rulemaking on a collaborative basis and believe that by incorporating the following suggestions, they will help the rule deliver on CRA’s promises:
- The scope of CRA evaluations should be expanded to include race and national origin.
- Consideration of climate- and disaster-related activities is important and should be strengthened.
- The Agencies should support consideration of activities that support Minority Depository Institutions and Women-owned Depository Institutions, impose guardrails for institutions with assets over $1 billion, and reward certain activities that help close persistent homeownership and wealth gaps.
- The Agencies should encourage activities that support affordable housing in high opportunity areas.
- The Agencies should use a rebuttable presumption of an illegal discriminatory practice if a bank’s facility-based assessment area excludes contiguous neighborhoods of color and should apply the new retail lending assessment area to all banks.
- The Agencies must explicitly recognize that SPCPs eligible for CRA consideration include those that are targeted to people and communities of color.
- The Agencies should require that the bank’s CRA rating be downgraded to “Needs to Improve” or “Substantial Noncompliance” if the bank has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination.
- To achieve meaningful public insight into the bank’s practices, the Agencies should disclose the bank’s HMDA data in the format used to analyze fair lending risk factors for redlining, pricing, and underwriting.
- To provide transparency regarding redlining risk, the public file should include at least five years of assessment area maps that include the majority minority census tracts and the original date of the acquisition or establishment of the branch.
- The Agencies should instruct their examiners to reach out to community-based organizations in LMI communities and communities of color who are familiar with the credit needs of their communities.
NFHA is joined by the following organizations as signatories to the comment letter.
- Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund
- Asian American Real Estate Association of America (AREAA)
- Center for Community Progress
- Grounded Solutions Network
- The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LDF)
- National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals
- National CAPACD
- National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)
- National Urban League
Click here to read the comment letter.
The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is the country’s only national civil rights organization dedicated solely to eliminating all forms of housing and lending discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all people. As the trade association for over 170 fair housing and justice-centered organizations and individuals throughout the U.S. and its territories, NFHA works to dismantle longstanding barriers to equity and build diverse, inclusive, well-resourced communities.