WE NEED A FINANCIAL SYSTEM GROUNDED IN FAIRNESS.

We need a strong Community Reinvestment Act.

#TreasureCRA

Welcome to the biggest fight in decades for fairness in America’s housing and finance laws.

The Community Reinvestment Act was a landmark civil rights law passed in 1977 to end discrimination that was once common in America’s banking and housing markets.

Discrimination in lending is still a problem, and we’re concerned about ideas from some regulators that would substantially weaken the law. We can’t allow that to happen.

WE NEED TO MODERNIZE CRA, NOT RELAX IT.

Urgent: Take Action

Submit Comments

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is taking comments on ideas to change CRA rules

We need to submit comments NOW!

Comments must be received on or before November 19, 2018.

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Sample Comments

September x, 2018

Comment regarding “Reforming the Community Reinvestment Act Regulatory Framework”

RE: Docket ID OCC-2018-0008

To Whom it May Concern:

(Name of Organization) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) regarding the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). CRA has leveraged significant amounts of loans and investments for low- and moderate-income communities. Since 1996, banks have issued almost $2 trillion in small business loans and community development loans and investments in low- and moderate-income communities.

In the (city or neighborhood), in which my organization works, CRA has motivated banks to provide loans and investments for affordable housing and economic development. (Describe here in a few sentences an example of CRA financing that has addressed a critical need and/or is innovative).

In order to bolster CRA’s effectiveness, reforms are necessary to take into account changes in banking and technology. Yet, as the OCC contemplates reform, it must not rush to propose or implement changes that will make banks less accountable and responsive to community needs, which would be counter to the purpose of the CRA legislation. If the OCC proceeds to significantly diminish the importance of assessment areas on CRA exams, the progress in increasing lending to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods will be halted. NCRC estimates that low- and moderate-income neighborhoods could lose up to $105 billion in home and small business lending nationally over a five year time period. In my state, the loss would be xxxx (insert figures from NCRC report) and in my Congressional district, the loss would be xxx (insert figures from NCRC report available here).

We are concerned that an OCC idea commonly called the one ratio would make CRA exams considerably less effective in evaluating how banks are responding to local needs in metropolitan areas and rural counties. The one ratio would consist of the dollar amount of a bank’s CRA activities (loans, investments, and services to low- and moderate-income borrowers and communities) divided by the bank’s assets. The ratio is supposed to reflect CRA effort compared to a bank’s capacity.

The idea behind the one ratio is that it will immediately signal to banks whether they are in compliance with CRA and will pass their next exam. While all stakeholders seek clarity in CRA, the one ratio is a solution in search of a problem. Passing CRA exams is not a problem since 98 percent of banks have passed their exams over the last several years.

While not necessary to ease banker anxiety about passing CRA exams, the one ratio threatens to render CRA ineffective in making sure banks respond to local needs. The CRA statute requires that banks “have continuing and affirmative obligations to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered.” The key word is local. One ratio cannot tell an examiner, a bank, or a member of the public how responsive a bank is to its various service areas. CRA exams currently evaluate and rate bank performance in geographical areas called assessment areas where banks have branches. Examiners are required to solicit and consider comments from community members about performance in assessment areas. This critical part of CRA, considering public comments on local performance, will be significantly undermined if the one ratio replaces assessment areas or significantly diminishes the importance of assessment areas and public input on CRA ratings.

(Add a few sentences here in a new paragraph about how your organization has engaged banks and/or CRA examiners in discussions about local needs and proposed financing and/or bank lending. Describe how these discussions and partnerships may end or be diminished if assessment areas become less important on CRA exams)

The OCC’s ANPR discusses the need to expand CRA exams to assess bank lending in areas beyond bank branches but does so in a way that further supports the one ratio concept. The ANPR says bank lending and deposit taking in geographical areas beyond bank branches has been increasing and that CRA exams should scrutinize this activity. However, the ANPR then hints that the dollar amount of this activity could be added to the numerator of the one ratio. Instead, the OCC should establish assessment areas for geographical areas where banks do not have branches but engage in a significant amount of business. This would better facilitate accountability to local needs and public input.

The OCC asks whether CRA consideration should be broadened for additional activities and populations. Industry trade associations have been advocating for CRA consideration for projects that have broad benefits such as financing hospitals that are not necessarily located in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. However, the OCC must be reminded that the original purpose of CRA was to combat redlining in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. If CRA exams award points for financing or activities that do not address lack of access to banking or community development needs in lower income neighborhoods, then CRA will be less effective in channeling resources to the communities that were the focus of the 1977 legislation.

In terms of expanding populations served by CRA, CRA exams must explicitly evaluate bank lending and service to people and communities of color. Senator Proxmire and the other members of Congress that drafted CRA and secured its passage were clearly concerned about disparities in lending in minority communities, especially inner-city neighborhoods. Since racial disparities in lending remain stubborn and persistent, CRA must include lending, investing, and service to people and communities of color in its evaluations. (Add your thoughts and experiences with serving communities of color and addressing racial disparities in lending)

Lastly, the OCC asks whether branching in low- and moderate-income communities should continue to be considered on CRA exams. Research has shown that low- and moderate-income people rely on branches for access to loans and banking services. If CRA exams dropped branches from consideration, the amount of lending and bank services in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods would decrease significantly. (Add your experience about bank branches in lower income neighborhoods or helping your modest income clients who are unfamiliar with banks get loans via bank branches).

In conclusion, meaningful CRA reform could boost lending and access to banking for underserved communities. CRA ratings must be reformed so the pass rate is no longer 98 percent. Assessment areas must be added that include areas outside of bank branch networks in which banks make high volumes of loans. Lending and access to banking for people and communities of color must be considered on CRA exams. Mortgage company affiliates of banks must be included on CRA exams.

To ease bank anxiety about unclear aspects of CRA, communications among the federal agencies, banks, and community groups could be improved. However, easing bank anxiety via the one ratio and diminishing the importance of branches, assessment areas, and public input will decrease lending and access to banking in the communities that need it the most. The federal agencies also must not establish easier exams for any category of banks that excuse them from current requirements for community development financing. We urge the OCC to go back to the drawing board and develop reform proposals with the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC. Thank you for your attention to our comments.

Sincerely,

Instructions

1. Use your favorite text editor and this sample letter to personalize your comment.

2. Find data about how CRA changes could impact lending in your community here.

3. When you’re ready with your comment, click the Get Started button (below) to go to the government’s comment submission form.

4. When you get there, copy/paste your text into the comment box or if you exceed the word limit you can attach your letter as a .docx, .jpeg or .pdf.

5. Add your contact information, check the box to acknowledge your comment will be made public, and click the green button that says “submit comment.”

6. You will then be directed to a confirmation page that indicates your comment was submitted successfully. This also gives you your official comment number. Your comment will also appear online within a few business days.

7. Ready?

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Take action, spread the word.

Our communities and leaders need to know:

We will not be silent while others try to dismantle one of the landmark laws of the Civil Rights era.

Keep up with the campaign to strengthen CRA.

Join our mailing list.

principles for a modern CRA

1.

Don’t strip ‘community’ 
out of a law that’s supposed to strengthen communities.

What we want:

Geography must remain the focus of CRA exams for all banks. We want banks to be graded  based on every geography where they lend or receive a significant percentage of their deposits. Lending isn’t tied to bank branches the way it used to be. But branches are still essential for low- and moderate- income people. Geography still matters. Neighborhoods still matter.

What we can't let happen:

We can’t eliminate geographic assessment areas. We can’t allow banks to cherry-pick where they lend – and where they don’t lend at all. We can’t allow banks to ignore the credit needs of distressed and vulnerable communities. We can’t allow a reboot of redlining.

2.

Protect communities of color with explicit language against racial discrimination.

What we want:

We want new language explicitly stating the law’s obligation to fairly serve all races and ethnicities. Banks that engage in large-scale illegal and harmful activities should fail their CRA exams.

What we can't let happen:

In 2017, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) watered down the penalties for discrimination. We can’t allow regulators to allow banks to pass CRA exams if they discriminate.

3.

Keep all lenders accountable.

What we want:

We want the Community Reinvestment Act applied to all lenders, the same way it’s applied to traditional banks. The financial landscape has changed. Mortgage companies, credit unions, fintechs and other “nonbank” lenders now make the majority of the home loans in America.

What we can't let happen:

We can’t allow a majority of mortgage lenders to avoid CRA requirements. Banks and the Treasury Department have acknowledged that the financial landscape has changed, and that CRA should be updated to reflect the current marketplace and increase safe reinvestment in our communities.

4.

Set a clearly-defined CRA grading system.

What we want:

We want a clearly-defined grading system that emphasizes lending, branches, fair lending performance, and responsible loan products for working class families. We want each of these important aspects to get their due weight in analyzing a bank’s CRA performance. We do not support one ratio that lumps all of a bank’s activity together.

What we can't let happen:

We cannot allow a rating system that makes it easy for banks to pick the lowest hanging fruit and ignore critical community needs.

5.

Don’t be afraid to let banks fail.

What we want:

We need regulators unafraid to stand up to financial institutions. If a bank fails its CRA exam, or wishes to acquire a bank with a better CRA grade, agencies should recognize and encourage community benefit agreements. We want to motivate a race to the top across our financial industry.

What we can't let happen:

This spring, the OCC weakened its CRA enforcement by allowing banks with failed CRA ratings to merge, acquire, and grow their business. We cannot  allow regulators to adopt this policy. The “wink and nod” CRA exam has gone on long enough.

Reforming CRA must not become a pretext for relaxing CRA.

Read the rest of our principles for CRA reform.

The fight is just beginning.

Spread the word.

Here are some things you can use in your email and social media messages to people you know and to leaders who need to hear from us.

#TreasureCRA

#JustEconomy

We need to modernize and strengthen CRA, not weaken it.

We will not be silent while others try to dismantle one of the landmark laws of the Civil Rights era.

The Trump Administration wants to dismantle all sorts of civil rights protections for minorities and communities of color. Now they’re talking about watering down rules that prevent discrimination in lending. We can’t allow this to happen. There is no good reason to make it easier for lenders to discriminate against credit-worthy borrowers. There’s still compelling evidence that discrimination remains a problem in many communities.

We support modernizing the law, and strengthening it. But discrepancies in lending to low- and moderate-income communities and people of color remain a problem in communities nationwide. Regulators should be working to set and enforce rules that solve that problem, not to making life easier for banks that are enjoying record profits.

The largest banks have retreated in lending to low- and moderate-income borrowers while 98 percent of banks pass their CRA exams. The law needs to be modernized and the rules and tests for compliance need to be strengthened, not weakened.

We have been fighting to strengthen and modernize the Community Reinvestment Act for over a decade. We must remain clear and consistent that the changes to CRA must not sacrifice the spirit and intent of the act – to increase access to capital, credit and basic banking services in underserved communities. We need CRA, and we need it strengthened and modernized to combat rising wealth inequality and place-based disparities in economic opportunity,.

Regulatory reform must invigorate CRA, not eviscerate it.

The Community Reinvestment Act was a landmark civil rights law passed in 1977 to end discrimination that was once common in America’s banking and housing markets. For decades, entire neighborhoods were excluded from lending to buy homes and build small businesses. Those were poor and working-class neighborhoods where minorities and immigrants lived. That practice was called redlining. It prevented millions of people from building personal wealth through home ownership and entrepreneurship.

The law made a huge difference. A trillion dollars or more went to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods that were once excluded from the American Dream.

But discrimination in lending is still a problem. We still need CRA, and neighborhoods still need lenders to live up to their obligations under the law.

  • CRA matters because we need a financial system grounded in fairness. We can’t allow the government to weaken the Community Reinvestment Act. #TreasureCRA #JustEconomy
  • We can’t allow banks to cherry-pick where they lend – and where they don’t lend at all. We can’t allow a simple fraction to substitute for investment in local communities, or to mask its absence. #TreasureCRA
  • Since 1977, CRA has driven inclusion and equity in the financial markets, leveraging trillions of dollars in responsible loans, investments, and services for traditionally underserved communities. #TreasureCRA
  • Reforming CRA must not become a pretext for relaxing CRA. #TreasureCRA
  • CRA exams must retain a local geographical focus. #TreasureCRA
  • Public participation is the heart and soul of CRA and must be safeguarded. #TreasureCRA
  • To combat rising inequality and placed-based disparities in economic opportunity, we need a vital CRA. #TreasureCRA #JustEconomy
  • Any changes to CRA should strengthen it and live up to the spirit and intent of the act – ensuring that low and moderate income communities and communities of color have equal access to capital and credit. #TreasureCRA
  • As politicians work to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act,, we must make sure they respect the spirit of this policy.  #TreasureCRA #JustEconomy
  • The OCC is undertaking a serious process that could reshape lending in low- and moderate-income communities for a generation.  #TreasureCRA #JustEconomy
  • Adjustments to CRA could help more Americans become home and business owners; or on the other hand, enable lenders to ignore entire neighborhoods.  #TreasureCRA #JustEconomy
  • The largest banks received 2.5 billion from tax cuts in the last quarter, and now they want to walk away from working class and poor communities. In response, we are launching the #TreasureCRA campaign for fairness in banking. Subscribe to NCRC’s mailing list and follow us on social for what’s next in our campaign. https://ncrc.org/treasureCRA/
  • We will not stand by silently while others try to dismantle one of the landmark laws of the Civil Rights era. Join the #TreasureCRA campaign, nearly 500 national and local partners standing up together for fairness in banking. Subscribe to NCRC’s mailing list and follow us on social for what’s next in our campaign. https://ncrc.org/treasureCRA/
  • .@USOCC’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is the first step towards weakening the Community Reinvestment Act. We have 75 days for public comment. We can’t allow banks to cherry-pick where they lend – and where they don’t lend at all. We can’t allow a simple fraction to substitute for investment in local communities, or to mask its absence. https://ncrc.org/treasureCRA/ 
  • The OCC just released the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. 487 civil rights and community organizations have stated that reforming CRA must not become a pretext for relaxing CRA. Read our joint letter:  #TreasureCRA
  • Hundreds of national and local partners from around the country are standing together to ensure banks continue serving the needs of low- and moderate-income communities.  We sent a CRA sign-on letter to all three banking regulators laying out guiding principles for CRA reform.
  • If the OCC ultimately proposes one metric that is determinative of a bank’s CRA grade, then the end result will undoubtedly be less responsiveness to local community needs. Check out NCRC’s recommendations for strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a law designed to stop discrimination in mortgage and small business lending.
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American Banker: Cheat sheet: 5 pressure points in CRA reform debate

Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting “has said he wants to improve CRA, and if he does so in ways that increase lending and investments to low- and moderate-income communities, we will be the first to applaud it,” Jesse Van Tol, chief executive of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, said in a statement.

CRA SUCCESS STORIES