Letter to Treasury: Strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC, 20220

Click here for a summary of the letter.

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

In February of 2017, President Trump issued an executive order mandating that federal agencies regulate the financial industry consistent with core principles including empowering consumers to make informed financial decisions and build wealth. In June, the Treasury Department responded to this executive order by publishing the first of a series of reports on the financial industry entitled, “A Financial System that Creates Opportunities – Banks and Credit Unions.” This report announced Treasury’s intention to review the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) with the aim of issuing recommendations for improving its implementation.

The report states, “Treasury plans to review several aspects of the CRA framework, including assessing the need for: improvement in how banks’ CRA investments are measured to improve their benefit to communities; additional harmonization of CRA supervision given the oversight by multiple regulators; changes in the way CRA geographic assessment areas are defined because of the changing nature of technology and other factors; and improvement in the regulatory review and rating assessment process, which would consider the frequency of examinations, the ability of institutions to remediate ratings, and the transparency of how the overall CRA assessment rating is determined.”[1]

Below, we address several of the concerns raised by Treasury through analysis and recommendations regarding assessment areas, enhancing regulatory review and ratings including bolstering efficiency and reducing delays, and improvements to CRA exam methodology. We share Treasury’s objectives that consumers should be empowered to make informed choices and build wealth. By requiring that responsible lending serve all communities, we believe that a revitalized CRA applied broadly and rigorously throughout the financial industry can help achieve the objectives of empowerment and wealth building.

Expansion of CRA to Non-Banks

The Treasury Department has been actively soliciting stakeholders’ views regarding the expansion of CRA to non-bank financial institutions. At the conference of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders (NAAHL) in November of 2017, Counselor to the Treasury Secretary Craig Phillips stated that it was “illogical” that CRA was not applied to credit unions. In this vein, we are pleased that the American Bankers Association (ABA) in their recent white paper has endorsed the application of CRA-like requirements to credit unions and financial technology companies (fintechs).[2]

A strong case can be made that CRA must be expanded broadly throughout the financial industry. A broad CRA mandate would level the playing field and require that financial institutions serve all communities, and particularly low- and moderate-income communities, consistent with safety and soundness. Because CRA requires banks to lend responsibly, research has demonstrated that CRA-covered bank lending has considerably lower delinquency and default rates than non-CRA covered lending of independent mortgage companies.[3] Applying CRA broadly throughout the financial industry would encourage institutions to compete by offering responsible and affordable loans with transparent terms and conditions instead of high cost and deceptive loans full of tricks and traps that proliferated in the run-up to the financial crisis. CRA would encourage all financial institutions to improve their performance. For example, NCRC conducted two reports comparing credit unions to banks and found that CRA-covered banks consistently made a higher percentage of loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers and communities than non-CRA covered credit unions.[4]

Regardless of the makeup of Congress or current and future Administrations, the federal government will likely have a large role regulating the financial industry and ensuring its liquidity. During the crisis, non-banks including Bear Stearns and AIG received access to the Federal Reserve Discount Window and received hundreds of billions of dollars of federal loans and subsidies.[5] During future recessions that are not as severe as the Great Recession, it is likely that non-banks as well as banks will continue to have access to the Discount Window and government support. In addition, independent mortgage companies issued approximately 70 percent of government-insured (FHA, VA) lending during 2016, the most recent year for which the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data is available.[6] Future reform of the Government Sponsored Enterprises will likewise preserve a significant role for government guaranteed mortgage lending. CRA as applied to banks was premised on a quid pro quo of serving all communities in exchange for FDIC deposit insurance. This quid pro quo of government support applies broadly throughout the financial industry.

Federal and state CRA laws and examination regimes provide guidance as to how to apply CRA broadly throughout the financial sector. For example, Massachusetts conducts CRA exams for mortgage companies and credit unions, which use commonsense measures of performance such as the percent of loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers. The federal CRA’s wholesale and limited purpose bank test could be applied to investment banks and scrutinize their level of community development investments such as Small Business Investment Corporations (SBICs) and Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). In sum, applying CRA broadly throughout the financial industry is not only desirable, it is feasible.

Assessment Areas

Congress passed CRA as a means of requiring banks to serve the communities in which they are chartered to do business. When CRA was enacted in 1977, banks financed their loans from deposits made in branches. They made loans locally to the populations served by their branches. Today, the connection between lending, deposit-taking, and branches remains in many cases, but some banks have weakened it. Lending is also financed by secondary market institutions including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and private sector investors. Therefore, banks are not as dependent on deposits as a source of financing and can make loans more easily in geographical areas where they do not have branches. Moreover, financial technology (fintech) companies that do not have branches and that make loans and gather deposits over the internet have applied recently for bank charters.

Currently, CRA exams consider lending in assessment areas that are typically geographical areas containing bank branches. CRA assessment area definitions will need to be updated for both traditional banks that make loans outside of branch networks and fintechs that become banks. Assessment areas need to capture lending where branches are located and lending outside of branch networks.[7]

A recent NCRC report, The Community Reinvestment Act and Geography, maintains that the agencies can apply the existing CRA regulations, their interagency Question and Answer (Q&A) document on CRA, and precedents from CRA exams of non-traditional banks to designate areas outside of branch networks with high volumes of loans as assessment areas (the NCRC study highlights a few CRA exams that evaluated retail lending in areas outside of branch networks). In addition, NCRC has recently commented on the application of Square, a fintech, which is seeking a bank industrial loan charter (ILC). Our comment letter describes how assessment areas would be constructed that would capture substantial volumes of loans.

The NCRC study also concludes that when assessment areas include less than 50 percent of a bank’s loans, the lending test and overall ratings are higher. Higher ratings due only to a minority of loans being scrutinized defeats CRA purpose of holding banks accountable for making responsible loans to low- and moderate-income (LMI) borrowers and communities.

Another issue uncovered by NCRC’s study is the tendency of CRA examiners to designate large numbers of assessment areas as “limited scope” areas subject to only cursory reviews as opposed to the more comprehensive reviews of “full scope” areas. Limited scope areas are more likely to be rural areas as opposed to metropolitan areas. NCRC recommends expanding the number of assessment areas that are full scope and ensuring that rural areas and smaller metropolitan areas are also considered as full scope areas. Applying more full scope designation to rural areas, in particular, will result in banks making more retail loans, community development loans, and qualified investments in rural areas.

Intermediate Small Banks and Thresholds for CRA Exams

The CRA regulations establish different CRA exams of varying degrees of difficulty for banks with different asset levels. Small banks, those with less than $307 million in assets, have the most streamlined exam that consists of a lending test only. Intermediate small banks (ISB), those with assets of $307 million to $1.226 billion, have exams that consist of a lending test and a community development (CD) test. The CD test assesses the level of CD lending and investing for affordable housing, economic development, and community facilities. Large banks, those with assets above $1.226 billion, have the most complex exams consisting of a lending test, an investment test, and a service test. Proposals have been made over the years to qualify more banks as small banks. This would mean that more banks would qualify for the small bank exam that has only the lending test, and fewer would be considered ISB banks.

NCRC recently released a study, Intermediate Small Banks: The Forgotten but Significant Resource for Affordable Housing and Community Development, which documents the significant levels of community development financing of ISB banks and provides several case studies of innovative projects. Using CRA exams conducted in 2016, NCRC documents that ISB banks made $9.3 billion in community development financing over a three-year time period, an amount that rivals major Department of Housing and Urban Development programs like CDBG. The study estimates that if the ISB category was eliminated entirely, at least 50 percent of this CD financing would not occur. Moreover, ISB banks themselves have an interest in retaining the CD test since the study finds that they earn higher ratings on the CD test than the lending test. In other words, the CD test boosts ISB overall ratings. Eliminating or sharply reducing the ISB bank category would be counterproductive for communities and ISB banks.

Exam Delays and Fair Lending Compliance Reviews

NCRC’s study, CRA Exams and Geography, documents that for the 100 largest banks by asset size, 65 percent had CRA exams that occurred during the last three years. The CRA exam cycle is supposed to be a two to three-year time cycle. Therefore, the majority of large banks are being examined in a timely manner. However, the largest banks have the greatest likelihood of being examined in an untimely manner. The top five banks in asset size had exams that ranged from five to seven years old. Thus, while the agencies have made progress over the years in timely execution and release of CRA exams, they need to be more efficient and perhaps devote more staff resources for exams of the largest banks.

Fair lending reviews on CRA exams assess if banks have violated anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. A bank can experience downgrades in CRA ratings if legal violations are widespread. In NCRC’s study, we found that four of the five largest banks experienced ratings downgrades. Of these four, three were downgraded from Outstanding to Satisfactory and one was downgraded from Outstanding to Needs to Improve.

NCRC’s study found that twelve of the top 100 banks experienced ratings downgrades. Eight of these banks went from Outstanding to Satisfactory ratings and four went from Outstanding or Satisfactory to Needs to Improve ratings. Twice as many banks still passed (Satisfactory ratings) than failed (Needs to Improve ratings) as a result of the downgrades. It would seem that CRA exams are not unduly harsh for fair lending violations, and may be too lenient, if they err in one direction. CRA examiners have discretion regarding the extent of a ratings downgrade due to legal violations.[8] For complex compliance issues, discretion seems appropriate, particularly since the severity and frequency of legal violations will change over the years. Moreover, banks can appeal their CRA ratings if they feel that they have been unjustly judged.

Fair lending reviews are a critical component of CRA exams in that they help assure that banks are fulfilling their obligations under CRA to serve all communities. If banks are engaged in discrimination, they are not serving communities of color. Thus, fair lending reviews must be a rigorous part of the CRA exam. Coordination between the federal bank agencies and the CFPB must be improved and staff resources devoted to fair lending reviews must be augmented to ensure that the fair lending reviews are executed in a timely matter. When fair lending reviews involve complicated compliance issues, some delays might be unavoidable as full and careful investigations need sufficient time. In these instances, CRA exams can be released with a procedure that ratings can be retroactively adjusted, if necessary, based on the findings of the fair lending reviews. Retroactive downgrades should also be applied if non-federal agencies, such as state attorney generals, uncover evidence of widespread discrimination or other illegal activities.

Ideally, CRA and fair lending reviews should be conducted simultaneously. However, when this is not possible, a procedure of retroactive downgrades will be helpful in preventing several year delays in the release of CRA exams. When CRA exams are several years old, they cannot be used effectively in merger application proceedings since they do not reflect recent past performance. Also, CRA cannot effectively hold banks accountable for serving low- and moderate-income communities since banks are being examined infrequently.

Standardizing CRA Exam Methodology and Format

Inconsistencies in CRA exam methodology and performance measures contribute to CRA grade inflation and diminish the objectivity of CRA evaluations. While some flexibility in evaluations can be appropriate, exams that have significantly different approaches within and across agencies impair the ability of the public and even banks themselves to compare and contrast bank performance. For example, on the investment test, agencies use different measures to evaluate CRA-related investments relative to bank capacity. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) exams tend to develop a ratio of investments to Tier One capital while the other agency exams tend to use a ratio of investments to assets. These different measures make it impossible to compare banks with similar sizes to each other in order to develop objective scoring on this criterion based on how the banks stack up against each other.

In addition, the investment test often does not sufficiently differentiate among investments with varying degrees of responsiveness to needs and innovation, which are regulatory criteria for judging the effectiveness of investments. For example, investments in equity vehicles highly responsive to local needs for job creation and small business development in areas of high unemployment should generally be judged higher than investments in mortgage-backed securities since a thriving market exists for investing in these securities. Yet, too often the investment test does not make these types of distinctions which would be then reflected in ratings. Better examiner training can help improve the quality of these type of examiner judgments.

The lending and service tests also suffer due to inconsistent measures of performance. On the lending test, the OCC uses market share measures (the percent of total low- and moderate-income (LMI) market captured by the bank compared to the percent of overall market captured by the bank) while the other agencies use portfolio share measures (the percent of a bank’s loans to LMI borrowers compared to all banks’ percent of loans to these borrowers). Both market share and portfolio share measures are reasonable performance measures but comparing banks against each other become difficult if they are examined by different agencies. One solution in this case is for the lending test to consider both measures.

The service test is probably the most subjective of the three tests. While percent of branches in LMI census tracts is a major criterion, it is hard to determine precisely how much weight this has since some CRA exams give out high ratings to banks with low percentages of branches in LMI tracts.[9] In addition, the agencies differ on how much to consider branches in non-LMI tracts that are in close proximity to LMI census tracts (or what close proximity means),[10] making it hard to judge whether percent of branches in LMI tracts is constructed the same way across agencies. Finally, the agencies have adopted a new Q&A about how to measure services offered via non-branch means such as mobile banking.[11] But they have not indicated precisely how they will measure success. Will the measures be the number of accounts to LMI people or the percent of accounts offered to LMI customers? Introducing these types of measures for traditional bank exams would also improve the rigor of their service tests.

Peer comparisons on CRA exams should be conducted in a more transparent manner so that banks and community groups can more accurately respond to examiner conclusions. Often, the lending test compares a bank’s performance to the aggregate (all lenders in the market) while the community development section of the lending test and the investment test have peer comparisons involving specific banks. The rationale for these choices should be better explained by the examiners so all stakeholders can offer more informed opinions about the adequacy of the peer comparisons. We do not support the ABA’s recommendation that banks should designate peers for comparison purposes that the regulators accept. The regulatory agencies are administering the test and as such should make the final decisions.[12]

Weights on CRA exams for component tests must remain standardized in order to facilitate accurate comparisons among bank performance. For example, the large bank exam weights the lending test at 50 percent, the investment test at 25 percent, and the services test at 25 percent. As NCRC’s study, The Community Reinvestment Act and Geography, found the largest 100 banks focus on retail lending so the most weight for the lending test remains appropriate. Ratings schemes that allow for variations of weights for institutions with similar business operations and capacities introduce more subjectivity into the grading system. The former Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) briefly experimented with a more flexible rating scheme but abandoned this system after only a few years. Currently, weights for component tests are different for different categories of banks (small, intermediate small, large, and wholesale and limited purpose), but within a particularly category, the weights are the same. This approach has stood the test of time.

We agree with the ABA that any guidance or formal or informal examination procedures must be publicly available. We have likewise encountered verbal communications about procedure that are not in any publicly available document. All stakeholders must be privy to all information so that CRA is administered in an unbiased and fair manner that is consistent across the three agencies. In addition, training of examiners should include formalized input and participation of both banks and community organizations during training sessions.[13]

Finally, the agencies took steps in the past to make table formats uniform but more work in this area is needed. Consistent and uniform tables would facilitate comparisons of bank CRA performance.

Definition of Community Development

Community development has a specific regulatory definition that focuses this development on responding to the needs of low- and moderate-income consumers and communities. The CRA regulation has been developed carefully over decades. It focuses on low- and moderate-income communities because these are the communities that experienced redlining and discrimination. Accordingly, community development including community development services like financial education must remain focused on low- and moderate-income consumers.[14]

If the agencies follow the recommendation of the ABA and provide credit for financial education that broadly serves the entire community, it is likely that banks could significantly reduce their efforts to direct this important service to low- and moderate-income people who need it the most because they have been disproportionately left out of the financial mainstream. The Interagency Q&A provides careful exceptions to the focus on low- and moderate-income people such as including mixed-income housing as an example of community development. This is as it should be; exceptions need to be narrowly targeted to promote positive outcomes like integration rather than broad-based which would result in low- and moderate-income communities being neglected in favor of easier-to-serve more affluent communities.

Also, as desirable as it is for bank employees to participate on Habitat for Humanity affordable housing developments, hammering nails is not a community development service which is of or related to the provision of financial services. This type of volunteer service should not be accorded favorable consideration on the CRA service test. Doing so would reduce the amount of financial education provided by banks as they send out their employees to hammer nails instead of providing financial education. It would be a misallocation of talent; bank staff have expertise in financial education whereas the skill and desire to hammer nails is more broadly distributed across the entire population.[15]

The ABA white paper also recommends providing community development consideration for small business lending. Retail small business lending is considered under the retail portion of the lending test and should not be considered as community development. Doing so would double count the small business lending and inflate the lending test rating. We do not take issue with the ABA’s recommendation that a real-estate secured loan to a nonprofit be considered as a community development loan as opposed to a small business loan.[16]

Merger Application Processing

Merger application processing represents a key time for review and enforcement regarding community reinvestment and fair lending obligations. Bank merger law requires that mergers demonstrate a public benefit. The absence of such a requirement could result in anti-competitive impacts and/or disinvestment if merging banks close branches and reduce lending after the merger. An effective and concrete manner to demonstrate public benefits is for the merging banks to commit to community benefits agreements involving community-based organizations. Recent community benefits agreements with KeyBank, Fifth Third, and Huntington total more than $60 billion.[17] These agreements mutually benefit communities and banks through more profitable opportunities for banks and increases in lending and investing in minority and low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Regulatory agencies can judge the rigor of these agreements by their specificity, quality of performance measures, and responsiveness to needs.

The merger application process needs to be executed carefully in order to ensure that banks are well managed, safe and sound, comply with a wide variety of fair lending and consumer protection law, and demonstrate public benefits. At the same time, the process should not consist of inexplicable delays for either community organizations or banks. For community organizations, undue delays are caused when regulatory agencies do not respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in a timely manner and either provide requested information shortly before public comments on the merger are due or after the expiration of the comment time period, frustrating the purpose of FOIA and public disclosure. We understand that banks become concerned when those with Outstanding CRA ratings experience processing times that seem lengthy. However, NCRC looked at twenty mergers from 2011 through 2016 and found that banks with Outstanding ratings experienced processing time (from submission of application to approval) of approximately one and a half months less than those with Satisfactory ratings. Moreover, a recent Federal Reserve report indicates that the agency has reduced processing time for mergers receiving public comments by about 49 days or almost two months from 2015 to 2016.[18]

Since it appears that processing time is declining, we would caution against any additional action to shorten processing time for banks with Outstanding ratings. Mergers are complicated events with complex and uneven impacts across geography. In addition, even banks with Outstanding ratings can have inconsistent CRA performance across states and metropolitan areas, meaning that the application time period is a critical time for seeking improvements where performance lags. Moreover, the rating can reflect performance from several years ago and more recent performance may be worse or at least different, necessitating analysis of more recent performance. In order for public benefits to be realized in these complex mergers, sufficient time must be allowed for complicated data analysis, including analyses conducted by the federal agencies, and discussions among banks and community organizations. Lastly, in some cases even banks with Outstanding ratings have engaged in discrimination and unfair and deceptive practices during the time period of its CRA exam or after its exam.

When processing time is cut short, investigations of improprieties cannot be completed and mergers are approved with serious and unresolved issues. For example, shortly after Capital One’s acquisition of ING was approved, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found Capital One to be in violation of consumer protection law regarding credit card practices and required the bank to refund $140 million to two million customers.[19] NCRC and other commenters had raised unfair and deceptive acts and practices in credit card lending during the merger application proceeding, but these practices were not examined as carefully as they should have been. Further shortening merger time periods is not consistent with attaining public benefits as even more issues would likely be overlooked.

The ABA wants regulators to clarify that “CRA not be used as a general enforcement tool and that an Unsatisfactory CRA rating will not be a de facto bar” in agency approval of activities.[20] Surely, the ABA knows that §25.29, “Effect of CRA performance on applications,” of the CRA regulations implements the statutory provisions that require the agencies to take the bank’s CRA record into account when considering bank applications.[21] This must remain the case since consideration of CRA ratings and performance on applications must remain a powerful incentive for banks to abide by their community reinvestment obligations. Merging with another institution or opening a branch is a privilege, not a right, and only banks abiding by their community reinvestment obligations should be accorded those privileges. Moreover, failing CRA exams remains a rare occurrence (about 2 percent over the last several years) so a bank that fails its CRA exam must not expect approval unless it can demonstrate an overwhelming public benefit of its proposed activity.

The ABA asks that regulatory agencies specify that banks should not be required to enter into an agreement in connection with a strategic plan.[22] For years, the agencies have been indicating in approval orders that agreements are not required by CRA or bank merger law. Regardless, they must change their tone and indicate that while not required, agreements are a concrete and specific means to demonstrate public benefit as required by bank merger law and can also be helpful for strategic plans.

Credit for Community Development Loans and Investments Outside of Assessment Areas

The agencies have longstanding procedures for allowing banks to receive favorable consideration for community development loans and qualified investments outside of their assessment areas. Favorable consideration can be earned if the activity is in the state or regional area comprising the assessment area. Below, are examples from CRA exams of the largest banks demonstrating that they commonly receive favorable consideration for out-of-assessment area activities. The agencies make clear in the Interagency Question and Answer (Q&A) document that banks of all sizes can receive favorable consideration for activity out of their assessment areas. Our suggestions above for expansion of assessment areas to include areas with significant amounts of retail lending outside of branch networks will also facilitate community development lending and investing in additional geographical areas. It seems as though the agencies have developed accepted and regularly used procedures for considering out of assessment area activity.

If the Treasury Department remains concerned, we recommend that the Department consult the agencies and banks themselves about how banks obtain assurances that out of assessment activities will be considered. Is there regular communication about these matters on an ongoing basis between banks, CRA examiners, and the agencies? We are also generally supportive of the ABA recommendation that the agencies develop procedures to respond to bank inquires in a timely manner about whether a particular activity would count as community development.[23] The agencies should also respond in a timely manner to community group inquiries of this nature since community groups are often working in partnership with banks on community development projects.

Here are examples from the largest bank CRA exams of out of assessment area activities being considered favorably.

  • JP Morgan Chase – Investment performance was “elevated” to excellent due to significant number of investments in broader statewide and regional areas. Investments in assessment areas were adequate and thus bank could receive credit for investments outside of assessment areas.[24]

 

  • Wells Fargo – “In addition to the investments and grants made in the full- and limited-scope AAs (in California), Wells Fargo made seven grants and investments totaling $83.3 million that benefited the entire state during the evaluation period.”[25]

 

  • Bank of America – “In some rating areas, investments made outside of the bank’s defined assessment areas, but within the state or regional area, enhanced the investment performance of the rating area.”[26]

 

  • Citibank – “The bank originated more than $3.8 billion in community development investments and grants within its various assessment areas and broader regional areas that include its assessment areas during the rating period. This includes broad statewide areas or regional areas that total $1.3 billion in current and prior period investments. These broader regional area investments further support the overall excellent investment performance of the bank.”[27]

 

Conclusion

The undersigned organizations believe that CRA is integral to increasing access to safe and sound lending, investments, and banking services in underserved organizations. We look forward to continued dialogue with the Treasury Department regarding improving the rigor and implementation of CRA.

This letter was organized by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and represents the views of our members and allies listed below:

 

Sincerely,

John Taylor

President and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition

 

cc: Joseph M. Otting, Comptroller of the Currency, Department of the Treasury; Craig S. Phillips, Counselor to the Secretary, Department of the Treasury; Kipp Kranbuhl, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of the Treasury

 

National Groups

Allied Progress

Americans for Financial Reform

Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)

Consumer Action

HomeFree USA, Inc.

NAACP

National Alliance of Community Economic Development Association (NACEDA)

National Association of American Veterans, Inc.

NALCAB- National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders

National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD)

National Coalition for Responsive Philanthropy

National Council on Agricultural Life & Labor Research Fund, Inc. (NCALL)

National Housing Institute

National NeighborWorks Association

National Urban League

Network for Developing Conscious Communities

Partners for Livable Communities

The Democracy Collaborative

THE NATIONAL CULTURAL CENTER OF THE NATIVE AMERICANS

 

 

Alabama

Alabama Association of Community Development

Building Alabama Reinvestment

Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama

MLK Avenue Redevelopment Corporation

National Business League of Alabama

Titusville Development Corp

Urban Impact, Inc.

 

Arizona

Arizona Housing Coalition

Behold Charities International

Chicanos Por La Causa

Junto Affordable Housing Inc.

Newtown Community Development Corporation

Prima County Community Advocate

 

Arkansas

Community Resources Technicians

People Trust

 

California

Access Plus Capital

American GI Forum

Azul MSI

Black Business Association

California Coalition for Rural Housing

California Community Economic Development Association

California FarmLink

California Housing Partnership

California Reinvestment Coalition

California Resources and Training

CCEDA

CDC Small Business Finance

Center for Urban Economics and Design

Chicana Latina Foundation

City of Livingston

Council of Asian Americans Business Associations CA

Crhcc

Democracy at Work Institute

EAH Housing

El Concilio of San Mateo County

Fathers and Families of San Joaquin

Haven Services

Housing Coalition Educators

IEWBC

Inland Empire Latino Coalition

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

Montebello Housing Development Corporation

Northern Californian Community Loan Fund

OCCUR

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing

Robert Zdenek Associates- Connecting Communities

Rural Community Assistance Corporation

San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce

Self-Help Enterprises

Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC)

The Central Valle Urban Institute

The Greenlining Institute

UCI Paul Merage School of Business

Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation

 

Colorado

Douglas County Housing Partnership

First Nations Oweesta Corporation

Mi Casa Resource Center

 

Connecticut

Concerned Black Clergy Council of Waterbury

Connecticut Citizen Action Group

Hartford Community Loan Fund

Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury

Women’s Institute for Housing & Economic Development

Yale University Program for Recovery and Community Health

 

District of Columbia

Advocates for Elder Justice, Hilda & Charles Mason Charitable Foundation, Inc.

Anacostia Economic Development Corporation

Housing Up

Latino Economic Development Center

Laura Zam Enterprises

MANNA, Inc.

Romijen Wellness

Shoppers Food Warehouse

 

Delaware

Be Ready Community Development Corporation

CCHS

Central Baptist Community Development Corporation

Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.

Edgemoor Revitalization Cooperative, Inc.

Ellendale Community Civic Improvement Association

Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County

Housing Alliance Delaware

Nehemiah Gateway Community Development Corp.

Neighborhood House, Inc.

University of Delaware

 

Florida

Affordable Homeownership Foundation Inc.

BBIF Florida

CDC of Tampa

CEGTBA, Inc.

CLEARWATER Neighborhood Housing Services Incorporated

Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida

Consolidated Credit Solutions, Inc.

Debt Management Credit Counseling

FL Alliance of Community Development Corporation

Florida Housing Coalition

Fusilier Realty Group

Future Leaders Community Development Corporation

H.O.M.E.S., Inc.

Haitian American Community Development Corporation

Home Ownership Resource Center of Lee County, Inc.

Housing and Education Alliance

Lee County Housing Development Corp.

Metro North Community Development Corp.

Mezrah Consulting

Miami Beach CDC

Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida

Neighborhood Renaissance, Inc.

New Urban Development

Real Estate Education And Community Housing Inc.

REVA Development Corporation

Solita’s House Inc.

South Florida CLT

St. Petersburg Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. (dba Neighborhood Home Solutions)

Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing, Inc.

Trinity Empowerment Consortium

Urban Philanthropies

We Help Communities to Develop Corporation

Wealth Watchers Inc.

 

Georgia

CCCS of the Savannah Area, Inc.

Community Outreach Training Center, Inc.

D&E, The Power Group

Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc.

Housing Justice League

JCVision and Associates, Inc.

National Housing Counseling Agency

Youth and Community Director

 

Hawaii

Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

Hawai’i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development

Hawaiian Community Assets

 

Illinois

Chicago Community Loan Fund

Chicago Urban League

Economic Growth Corp.

Global Network

IFF

Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA]-USA

NHS of Chicago

NORTHWEST SIDE HOUSING CENTER

Oak Park Regional Housing Center

Open Communities

Partners in Community Building, Inc.

Spanish Coalition for Housing

Universal Housing Solutions CDC

Woodstock Institute

NHS of Chicago

 

Indiana

Community Investment Fund of Indiana

Fay Biccard Glick Neighborhood Center at Crooked Creek

Gary Economic Development Corporation

HomesteadCS

HOPE of Evansville, Inc.

Irvington Development Organization

John Boner Neighborhood Centers

LaCasa, Inc.

Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation

Martin University

Martindale Brightwood Community Development Corporation

Memorial CDC

Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance

NSP Consultants, LLC

Pathfinder Services, Inc.

Prosperity Indiana

Westside Community Development Corporation

 

Iowa

River Cities Development Services

Scott County Housing Council

 

Kentucky

The Urban Coalition of Appraisal Professionals

 

Louisiana

Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance

HousingNOLA

Kingsley House Inc.

LiftFund Inc.

Multi-Cultural Development Center

Neighborhood Development Foundation

New Day Homeowner Services

People’s Organization of Social Equality

Treme Market Branch

UMOJA Institute of African America Culture Trade and Economic Development Inc.

 

Massachusetts

BCC

Call Andy! Macintosh Consulting

Common Capital

Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation

Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston

Fenway Community Development Corporation

Lawrence CommunityWorks, Inc.

Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF)

Mass. Association of Community Development Corp.

Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance

Massachusetts Communities Action Network

NeighborWorks SOUTHERN MASS

Oak Hill CDC

Revitalize Community Development Corporation

Urban Edge

 

Maryland

Baltimore Community Lending, Inc.

Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.

CityLabs USA

Coppin Heights CDC

Greater Baltimore Community Housing Resource Board

Heritage United Church of Christ

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition

Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore

People of Change Coalition

Southeast Community Development Corporation

The Historic Marble Hill Community Association

 

Maine

Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

Genesis Community Loan Fund

Quattrucci & Company

 

Michigan

Bridging Communities, INC.

Building Families First Community Organization

CDAD

Community Economic Development Association of Michigan

Cooperative Capital

DETROIT Homeownership Center CDC

Detroit Non-Profit Housing

Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit

Financial Justice Coalition

Housing Resources, Inc.

Metro Community Development, Inc.

Michigan Community Action

Michigan Community Reinvestment Coalition

Mid Michigan Community Action Agency

Neighborhood Legal Services Michigan

Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO)

New Development Corporation

New Hope Community Development

Southwest Economic Solutions

Southwest Solutions

 

Minnesota

Asian Economic Development Association

Community Reinvestment Fund, USA

Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services

Jewish Community Action

Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid

Voices for Racial Justice

 

Missouri

AltCap

Community Property Ventures

Consumers Council of Missouri

CREA

Forward Through Ferguson

International Institute Community Development Corporation

Justine PETERSEN

Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council

NHS of Kansas City, Inc.

Old North St. Louis Restoration Group

R.A.A.- Read, Aim, Advocate

Travois

Useful Community Development

Washington University School of Social Work

 

Mississippi

Breakthrough Community Services, Inc.

CFORM/CovenantCDC

Housing Education and Economic Development

Mississippi Housing Partnership

 

North Carolina

Action NC

Centre for Homeownership & Economic Development Corporation

Circle of Mercy

Community Link

DHIC

Durham Regional Financial Center

EXCEED, Inc.

Henderson & Company

NC Housing Coalition

New Frontier CDC

North Carolina Housing Coalition

Rebuild Durham Inc.

S J Adams Consulting

The Institute of Minority Economic Development

White Oak Foundation Inc.

 

Nebraska

Family Housing Advisory Services

Neighborworks Lincoln

 

New Mexico

Southwest Neighborhood Housing Services

United South Broadway Corporation

 

New York

Affordable Housing Partnership Homeownership Center

Albany Community Land Trust

Arbor Housing and Development

Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD)

Beaulac Associates LLC

Bridge Street Development Corporation

Buffalo Niagara Community Reinvestment Coalition

Center for NYC Neighborhoods

Central lslip Civic Council

CNY Fair Housing, Inc.

Community Capital New York

Community Development Alliance of the Capital District

Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, Inc.

Devotion NYC

Empire Justice Center

Fair Finance Watch

HomeSmartNY

Human Development Services of Westchester

La Fuerza Unida, Inc.

Long Island Housing Services, Inc

New Economy Project

New York State Senator James Sanders

New York State Wide Senior Action Council

NHP Foundation

PathStone Enterprise Center

Rural housing Opportunities Corp.

St. Nicks Alliance

TSC Grand, Ltd.

United Tenants of Albany, Inc.

White Wing Education Community

University Neighborhood Housing Program

 

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Community Loan Fund

 

New Jersey

Fair Housing Council

Jersey Counseling & Housing Development, Inc.

New Jersey Association on Correction

New Jersey Citizen Action

NJ NAACP

Urban League of Essex County

 

Nevada

Nevada Legal Services

 

Ohio

Akron NAACP

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Akron Baptist Church

Another Chance Ohio

Antioch Baptist Church

Baptist Ministers Conference of Cincinnati

Breakin Chains Inc.

Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corp.

Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc.

Catholic Commission of Summit County

Central Ohio Fair Housing Association, Inc.

Cincinnati Change Inc.

Cincinnati Community Action Agency

City of Bedford Heights,

City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio

City of Cleveland- Dept. of Community Development

City of Dayton Human Relations Council

City of South Euclid

Jerry Sykes, Toledo City Councilman

CityWide Development Corporation

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress

Collective Empowerment Group

Communities United for Action

Community Action Agency of Cincinnati-Hamilton County

Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati

Community Development for All People

Community Housing Solutions

Community Matters

County Corp

Detroit Shoreway Community Development Org.

ECDI

Economic and Community Development Institute

Education Motivation Success, Inc.

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP)

Fair Housing Center

Fair Housing Contact Service

Fair Housing Resource Center, Inc.

Faith Community Alliance of Greater Cincinnati

Famicos Foundation

Federation of Network Ministries

Friends of the African Union Chamber of Commerce

Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative (GCMI)

Greater Cleveland Reinvestment Coalition

Greater Dayton Minority Business Assistance Center

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Dayton

Hamilton County Community Reinvestment Group

Harrison Township

Heart to Heart Family Support Center

Helping Hands Community Outreach

Home Repair Resource Center

Homes on the Hill, CDC

Isonomy Consulting

JOVIS

J-RAB

L.A. Keyz Financial Services

Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation

Metro West Community Development Organization

Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc.

Miami Valley Urban League

Mustard Deed Development Center

Nazareth Housing Dev. Corp.

Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland

NeigborWorks Collaborative of Ohio

Ohio CDC Association

Ohio Fair Lending

Omega Community Corporation

One South Euclid

Peter Ujvagi, Toledo City Council Member

Rebuilding Together Dayton

Slavic Village Development

Small Business Development Center at TEC

The Fair Housing Center

Village Capital Corporation

Working in Neighborhoods

YWCA Dayton

 

Oklahoma

Mvskoke Loan Fund

 

Oregon

CASA of Oregon

Community Housing Fund

Grounded Solutions Network

Kate Allwn Community Development Services

ONABEN

Redix Consulting Group, LLC

REACH Community Development

 

Pennsylvania

Allentown Housing Authority

Amani

Center for Family Services, Inc.

Clarifi

Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, Inc.

Community First Fund

Community Neighbors United

Five/Four Advisors

Hilltop Alliance

Lancaster Equity CDC

Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks, INC

Oakland Planning and Development Corporation

Philadelphia Association of Community Development

Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation

Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group

Southwest Community Development Corporation

United Communities Southeast Philadelphia

Uptown Partners of Pittsburgh

ASSETS

 

Rhode Island

Capital Good Fund

Church Community Housing Corporation

Housing Network of Rhode Island

HousingWorks RI

NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley

 

South Dakota

GROW South Dakota

 

South Carolina

Greenville County Redevelopment Authority

 

Tennessee

BLDG Memphis

Chattanooga Organized for Action

Good Neighbor Foundation HomeOwnership Center

Latino Memphis

Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association

Memphis Urban League

New Level Community Development Corp

Tennessee Fair Housing Council

The Fifteenth Avenue Baptist CDC

You Can Make It HomeOwnership Center

 

Texas

BCL of Texas

Covenant Community Capital

HAELINGEN CDC

Home Sweet Home Community Redevelopment

Housing Channel

Jefferson Community Housing Development Foundation, Inc.

Our Casas Resident Council INC.

Pine Place Development, LLC

Southeast Houston CDC

 

Utah

Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University

Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation

 

Vermont

Fair Housing Project, CVOEO

Housing Vermont

 

Virginia

Community Business Partnership

Emerging Financial Concepts

Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia

SCDHC

Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation

 

Washington

Beacon Development Group

Greenfield Institute

Northwest Fair Housing Alliance

 

Wisconsin

Forward Community Investments

Havenwoods Economic Development Corp

Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council

NeighborWorks Green Bay

Riverworks Development Corporation

Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin, Inc.

Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development

 


[1] See pages 64 and 65 of the Treasury report.

[2] American Bankers Association, CRA Modernization, Meeting Community Needs and Increasing Transparency, December 2017, https://www.aba.com/Advocacy/Documents/CRA-WhitePaper2017.pdf#_ga=2.192150499.839944790.1512674294-422164602.1512674294

[3] Neil Bhutta and Daniel Ringo, Assessing the Community Reinvestment Act’s Role in the Financial Crisis, May 26, 2015, FEDS Notes, https://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/notes/feds-notes/2015/assessing-the-community-reinvestment-acts-role-in-the-financial-crisis-20150526.html

[4] See NCRC, Credit Unions, True to their Mission (Part II), https://ncrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/creditunionreport090309.pdf

[5] Liz Cohen and Rosalia Agresti, “Expanding the Community Reinvestment Act to all Financial Institutions” in Revisiting the CRA: Perspectives on the Future of the Community Reinvestment Act, Federal Reserve Banks of San Francisco and Boston, February 2009, http://www.frbsf.org/community-development/files/revisiting_cra.pdf

[6] NCRC calculations using Table 10 of Neil Bhutta, Steven Laufer, Daniel Ringo Residential Mortgage Lending in 2016: Evidence from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Data, Federal Reserve Bulletin, November 2017, https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2016_HMDA.pdf

[7] The current CRA regulations focus on lending when considering the adequacy of a bank’s assessment areas. One criterion on the lending test is the proportion of loans in a bank’s assessment areas, with higher proportions of loans being viewed more favorably. For many institutions that focus on lending, the lending-centered construction of assessment areas makes sense. For non-traditional institutions that focus on non-lending activities such as deposit accounts or payment processing, a different procedure for developing assessment could be appropriate. A first step would be to examine data on deposits or other major lines of business and see if there are geographical concentrations in certain areas that naturally lead to the designation of assessment in those areas.

[8] The OCC has made a recent change removing some examiner discretion and stating that a bank cannot experience a downgrade of two ratings. See https://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/bulletins/2017/bulletin-2017-40.html. The groups signing this letter do not agree with this change and believe that since the severity of violations vary, examiners must have discretion in ratings decisions.

[9] For example, see Astoria Bank, OCC exam of 2012, states that the bank has 85 branches but none are in low-income tracts. Four percent of the branches are in moderate-income tracts but 16 percent of the population in Nassau Suffolk reside in moderate-income tracts. The bank still received a Low Satisfactory on its Service Test.

[10] Even within an agency the standard differs as can be seen by OCC exams of Capital One and JP Morgan Chase. The Capital One exam of 2013 counts branches in non-LMI tracts if they are within one half mile of an LMI tract; the Capital one exam of 2011 uses one mile; the JP Morgan Chase exam of 2007 uses one half mile. One mile is too far, especially for customers with limited mobility. NCRC would prefer that branches outside of LMI tracts not be counted but if they are, one quarter of a mile away would be a reasonable threshold.

[11] Community Reinvestment Act; Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment Act Guidance, OCC, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, FDIC, Fed. Reg. Vol. 81, No. 142, §__24(d)(3)—1: at 48542, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-07-25/pdf/2016-16693.pdf

[12] ABA, CRA Modernization, p. 9. On page 5, the ABA also proposes that the agencies’ examiners must accept the banks’ designation of assessment areas. Again, the examiners must be the final arbiter of these issues. In the assessment area case, the examiner must insure that banks’ choices are not arbitrarily excluding low- and moderate-income communities in violation of the CRA regulation.

[13] ABA, CRA Modernization, pp. 11-12.

[14] ABA, CRA Modernization, p. 2.

[15] ABA, CRA Modernization, p. 4.

[16] ABA, CRA Modernization, pgs. 3-4.

[17] See NCRC webpage, http://www.ncrc.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=1157&Itemid=272

[18] Federal Reserve, Semiannual Report on Banking Applications Activity, https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/semiannual-report-on-banking-applications-20170331.pdf

[19] CFPB Probe into Capital One Credit Card Marketing, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-capital-one-probe/

[20] ABA, CRA Modernization, p. 13

[21] 12 U.S. Code § 2903 (a)(2), see https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/12/2903

[22] ABA, CRA Modernization, p. 10

[23] ABA, CRA Modernization, pp. 7-8.

[24] JP Morgan Chase CRA exam, https://www.occ.gov/static/cra/craeval/jul12/8.pdf, p. 2.

[25] Wells Fargo CRA exam, https://www.occ.gov/static/cra/craeval/apr17/1.pdf, p. 109.

[26] Bank of America CRA exam, https://www.occ.gov/static/cra/craeval/oct14/13044.pdf, p. 20.

[27] Citibank CRA exam, https://www.occ.gov/static/cra/craeval/feb17/1461.pdf, p. 16.

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