California Reinvestment Coalition Goes to Washington

Last week, members of the California Reinvestment Coalition traveled to Washington, DC, for the annual National Community Reinvestment Coalition conference.  The theme this year was “Creating a Just Economy.”

Keynote speakers during the conference included Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, CFPB Director Richard Cordray, Representative Maxine Waters who is Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, Comptroller Thomas Curry, Senator Sherrod Brown who is Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee, Mark Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, and John Taylor, president and CEO of NCRC.

There were a number of sessions focused on reinvestment, affordable housing, small business lending, home ownership, gentrification, economic development, CDFIs, community health benefit agreements, fintech, rural development, fair housing, the racial wealth gap, the Community Reinvestment Act, redlining, and more, including a session entitled “Defending the CFPB” that Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of CRC, moderated.

In addition to attending the conference, CRC members also met with members of the California Congressional delegation and with bank regulators and their staff as well.  During the meetings, CRC members shared what they are seeing from their work in communities, specifically around issues related to small business lending, affordable housing and economic development.

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The president’s so-called “skinny budget” proposal was one of several topics covered at the meetings, and more background about the additional issues is included below.

Program/Department

Budget Proposal Impact on California

HUD Budget 

Eliminates CDBG, reductions for key programs serving renters Loss of $357 million in CDBG funds for CA cities;

$130 million in HOME funds for new affordable housing; Thousands of tenants to lose rental assistance vouchers;

More costs for Medicaid as seniors move to nursing homes w/o Meals on Wheels;

Increased homelessness;

CDFI Fund

Eliminated

Fewer loans, less support for Small Biz Owners. There are 86 CDFIs in CA that made 39,000+ loans in FY 2016.

Legal Services Corporation

Eliminated

11 CA orgs. receive funding through LSC.

Small Business Administration

Prime program defunded; Microloan program frozen Less financing available for CA small businesses.

NeighborWorks

Eliminated

Will harm efforts at building assets, including for 1st time homebuyers, also negative impacts for affordable housing.
AmeriCorps Eliminated

Work on tax returns, literacy, emergency response, health, and economic development.

 

Community Reinvestment Act

This year, CRA celebrates its 40th anniversary. Because of the CRA, financial institutions are helping to meet important community credit needs and building consumer and community wealth, through small business lending, mortgage lending, affordable housing finance, community development activity and bank branch and account access.

  • California Reinvestment Coalition members and other community groups have recently negotiated win-win community commitments with a number of banks, including City National, Bank of Hope, Cathay Bank and Mechanics Bank.
  • But bank regulators need to be more rigorous and timely in their CRA and Fair Lending examinations of banks. Wells Fargo had not had a CRA rating made public in 9 years, and several banks, such as BancorpSouth and Evans Bank that received Satisfactory CRA ratings were later sued for redlining.
  • Regulators should encourage banks to develop Community Benefit Plan agreements with local community groups, and incorporate these agreements into any bank merger approval and subsequent CRA exams.
  • Regulators should also provide CRA downgrades to institutions that engage in discriminatory, unfair, or deceptive practices, or that finance the direct or indirect displacement of low and moderate income people and communities of color, or that finance lenders who make predatory loans in these communities. Banks must diversify management and staff, and develop robust supplier diversity programs.


Rural Communities

Rural communities in California face unique and significant challenges. Banks are well placed to help local communities develop and grow through home mortgage and small business lending, affordable housing investments and low cost accounts.

  • But nonprofit groups and even some banks report that banks only lend and invest in geographic areas that are subject to “full scope” regulatory review (via CRA exams),  that tend to focus on larger, urban areas, especially for the largest banks.
  • Bank regulators should expand the number of full scope areas for banks that are among the biggest depositories and lenders in smaller, rural communities. Branch closings, especially in rural areas, are also effectively limiting access to banking for consumers.

Protect CFPB

The Dodd Frank Act and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are the most effective and publicly popular responses to the financial crisis.

  • The CFPB has secured over $12 billion in consumer relief, more than all of the other, relevant federal agencies combined.
  • The CFPB developed common sense rules that brought order and transparency to mortgages (Qualified Mortgage and QRM rules, home loan modifications (servicing rules, including successors in interest protections), and the collection of home loan data (HMDA rule).
  • Additionally, CFPB enforcement actions have protected consumers and communities from unlawful lending discrimination and unfair and deceptive practices.
  • Importantly, over 1 million consumers (including over 118,000 Californians) have already taken advantage of the CFPB’s user-friendly consumer complaint database to file complaints -some telling their stories – to seek relief but also to inform other consumers and CFPB enforcement officers about problematic practices and actors.
  • The CFPB’s Director, structure and authority must be vigorously protected.
  • Important CFPB rules on payday lending, prepaid cards, mandatory arbitration, debt collection and small business loan data must be finalized and protected from repeal.
  • We also support the CFPB’s work on issues that have important impacts on consumers, ranging from student loans to credit reporting agencies to financing for cars.

Small Business Lending

  • Small business lending has increased since Dodd Frank Act, not decreased as some Dodd Frank critics have suggested. But small business loans are still less available in LMI neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color
  • And many small business owners looking for credit from banks are relegated to higher cost and variable rate credit cards, not term loans.
  • 95% of the small business loans in CA from JPMorgan Chase Bank are credit card loans. While credit cards serve a purpose, they can come with higher costs, variable rates and are not well suited for the longer term capital needs that many businesses have.
  • Dodd Frank Section 1071 data would bring much needed transparency into who is receiving small business loans- and who is not. In the same way that HMDA data created greater transparency in the home lending market, 1071 small business data will shed light on small business lending trends, highlight disparities, and likely lead to increased lending.
  • Fintech, online, and marketplace lenders can present opportunity, but some are clearly also creating harm. CDFIs and community lenders are spending precious capital and staff time refinancing small business owners out of predatory fintech loans and merchant cash advances.
  • An Opportunity Fund analysis of 150 “alternative loans” found an average APR of 94%, and among Hispanic borrowers, the average monthly payment was more than 400% of take-home pay.
  • Advocates are concerned about a weakening of consumer protection under any OCC national fintech charter which will lead to preemption of state laws, and are concerned that the OCC has not shown itself to be a strong bank regulator (see, Wells Fargo).
  • We join Congressman Cleaver in raising concerns that fintech lenders are violating fair lending laws by not making good credit available to neighborhoods of color, that fintech algorithms may be biased, and that predatory fintech loans are destabilizing small business owned by women and people of color. The CFPB and other agencies must vigorously enforce fair lending laws against predatory and discriminatory fintech lenders. Bank partnerships with fintech lenders must be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure fair lending and consumer protection laws are followed
  • In addition to bank and fintech loans, small businesses are vulnerable to high cost products like Merchant Cash Advance and installment loans that can financially sink business owners instead of helping them.

Homeownership

Home loans are hard to come by in neighborhoods of color. Banks are increasingly focused on making jumbo loans which disproportionately benefit white borrowers, while making fewer loans to Latino and African American borrowers, and abandoning FHA loans in favor of their own, unproven products, with less than impressive results.

  • Any future GSE reform must maintain a duty to serve communities and retain affordable housing goals. Currently, Fannie and Freddie need to be held accountable to meeting ambitious affordable housing goals, and should offer more flexible products to qualified homeowners.
  • We are concerned about a return to redlining, and hope to see DOJ, CFPB and HUD continue their important work in enforcing fair housing and fair lending laws.
  • HUD is currently investigating CRC’s first HUD redlining complaint (more information and graphs below), filed against OneWest Bank for having few branches and making few home loans in neighborhoods of color in six Southern California counties.
  • Given our aging population, increased oversight is needed in the reverse mortgage market to ensure that seniors are not taken advantage of by loan originators and servicers.
  • CRC is deeply concerned that seniors are continuing to lose their homes unnecessarily due to servicer bureaucracy, a lack of strong oversight of this industry by HUD, and a very limited infrastructure to help seniors and their families avoid needless foreclosures.  The elimination of funding for Legal Aid organizations will exacerbate this problem.

Affordable Rental Housing

California continues to suffer from an affordable housing crisis. The California Housing Partnership Corporation estimates that California needs 1.5 million affordable homes to accommodate the state’s lowest income residents.

  • Any HUD budgets cuts to key programs such as HOME, CDBG, Rental Assistance and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, could be devastating.
  • California nonprofit housing developers report that many investors, including banks subject to the Community Reinvestment Act, are pulling back from existing commitments in tax credit deals and attempting to renegotiate terms in light of pending tax reform. The result is fewer units produced and more subsidy coughed up at the 11th hour by desperate nonprofits who then must forego developer fees, and local governments which must contribute additional, unplanned subsidies.
  • Banks should receive CRA rating downgrades for such behavior as well as for seeking community development lending credit for loans that foreseeably lead to displacement of low and moderate income residents the CRA was meant to benefit.
  • CRC is deeply concerned about Fannie Mae’s recent commitment to guarantee up to $1 billion in debt backed by single family rental homes owned by private equity giant Blackstone.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must continue to invest in the National Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund.
  • Importantly, HUD must continue to implement Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing obligations and assist local jurisdictions in meeting critical housing needs, fighting displacement and creating access to areas of opportunity for all.

Immigrant Access

The current political environment, with its changing policies and harsh rhetoric is threatening to drive immigrant communities out of the country, or out of sight. A recent CRC survey of confirms that many of our organizational members are seeing clients go underground, fail to show up for jobs, and forego access to needed services because they are concerned about ICE.

  • Bank regulators and banks should work together to clarify and simplify the privacy data rights of immigrants so they will not fear that banks will share their private data with the government.
  • Banks should also be encouraged to lend directly to qualified immigrant homeowners and small business owners who may have ITIN numbers, as well as invest in CDFIs and community lenders that make such loans.
  • For banks serving large immigrant populations, they should consider what information may be helpful to share with their customers about power of attorney and other bank access issues should a household member face deportation.

Payday lending

Payday lending continues to be a scourge on working families, charging 400% APR for short term loans that trap unsuspecting consumers in cycles of debt.

  • The CFPB has designed well considered and reasonable rules to protect consumers against abuses.
  • Federal intervention is needed as payday lenders and lobbyists have a stranglehold in Sacramento.
  • Banks should be incentivized to continue to develop small dollar alternatives to such products and to assist CDFIs and other community lenders that seek to fill this niche, and should also be penalized in their CRA exams for any financing to high-cost, predatory lenders.

Overdraft

According to the CFPB, the majority of overdrafts are on transactions of $24 or less and are repaid within 3 days or less. The CFPB calculated that with a median overdraft fee of $34, this is equivalent to a loan with a 17,000 APR.

  • It is telling that payday lenders defend their triple digit APR loans by saying consumers are merely making informed decisions to take out payday loans because they are less expensive than overdraft fees.
  • Banks continue to overly rely on overdraft fees as a source of fee revenue, to the detriment of their clients. CFPB rules on abusive overdraft policies are important, and all regulators should independently examine the impact of overdraft on bank customers, and work with their banks to end this product.

 

More on CRC’s Redlining Complaint Against CIT Group

Redlining Complaint Against OneWest Bank filed by California Reinvestment Coalition

Mortgage lending in 2015 (CRC)

The complaint alleges that OneWest Bank’s lending to borrowers in communities of color is low in absolute terms, low compared to its peer banks, and is lower than one would expect, given the size of the Asian, African American and Latino populations in Southern California.

Branch locations OWB

As part of the complaint, an analysis of the bank’s assessment areas found that OneWest has only 1 branch in an Asian majority census tract, no branches in African American majority census tracts, and 11 branches in Hispanic majority census tracts.

Branches in Asian, African American, and Hispanic majority trats (OWB)

While OneWest’s foreclosure record is not part of the redlining complaint, analysis by CRC and Urban Strategies Council found that OneWest was nine times as likely to foreclose in communities of color as compared to extending mortgage loans in communities of color.

OWB foreclosures vs originations

Fair Housing Groups Ask Court to Deny Banks’ Effort to Stop Richmond’s Mortgage Rescue Plan

Underwater homeowners in Richmond CA

A coalition of fair housing and civil right groups filed an amicus brief in federal court today, supporting the City of Richmond’s opposition to a motion for preliminary injunction filed by trustees Wells Fargo Bank and Deutsche Bank. The trustees (Wells and Deutsche Bank) seek to block the City’s plan to help homeowners by restructuring underwater mortgages.

The brief, filed by the law firm Relman, Dane, & Colfax PLLC, on behalf of the National Housing Law Project, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, Bay Area Legal Aid, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, and the California Reinvestment Coalition, argues that the actions the securitization industry has threatened to take to block the program, known as Richmond CARES, would amount to illegal redlining and would violate federal and state fair housing and fair lending laws, including the federal Fair Housing Act.

Richmond is 40% Hispanic and 25% African-American, and the fair housing and civil rights groups argue that the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association’s (SIFMA) plan would therefore have a disparate impact on minority borrowers.

Kevin Stein, Associate Director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, explained: “Banks continue to fail at keeping Richmond families in their homes, without any real consequences from their regulators.  Instead of fighting the city and threatening to redline Richmond, the banks should refocus their efforts on helping homeowners, especially since more than half (51%) of them are underwater in Richmond.”

Last summer, the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) announced that in response to Richmond’s plan to help homeowners, SIFMA would block any future mortgages made in Richmond from being accepted in the most desirable part of the secondary market for mortgage-backed securities (MBS).  By restricting access, the cost of credit would likely rise dramatically for Richmond borrowers.

Marcia Rosen, Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project, explained: “The Banks’ attempt to prevent Richmond from responding to its foreclosure crisis is especially egregious given their role in the predatory lending underlying the crisis.   And the assertion that the injunction is necessary to protect the public interest from their own threatened redlining of the city must be seen for what it is — discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act that would further harm this beleaguered city and its residents.”

“What the securitization industry says it will do to the people of Richmond if it loses in the city council and the federal courthouse is racially discriminatory redlining, and it is illegal under federal and state law.  We fully expect that if the industry ever tries to go forward with its redlining plan, a court will step in and stop it,” said Glenn Schlactus of Relman, Dane & Colfax, a civil rights law firm based in Washington, D.C.

Maeve Elise Brown, Executive Director at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, explained, “The mortgage servicing industry has lost money for investors for years by failing to work with homeowners on foreclosure avoidance options, particularly principal reduction.  The industry knows that principal reduction is the wise financial choice for investors and homeowners alike.  But now, disingenuously, the industry claims that a plan with principal reduction will hurt investors.  The fact is, the eminent domain proposal is likely to save investors money over the years to come, as well as maintaining communities and saving the city from tremendous losses.”

Hearing: A hearing on the trustees’ motion for a preliminary injunction and the City of Richmond’s motion to dismiss the case will be held on September 12, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the Honorable Charles R. Breyer, presiding.

San Francisco Resolution supporting Richmond introduced: A resolution supporting the City of Richmond’s program was introduced today by San Francisco County Supervisor David Campos, recognizing the damage done to local communities by the foreclosure crisis, and supporting Richmond’s efforts to confront the problem head on.

CONTACT:

Sean Coffey, CRC, 415-864-3980, scoffey@calreinvest.org

Glenn Schlactus, Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC, 505-603-4243, gschlactus@relmanlaw.com

John Relman, Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC, 202-365-1283, jrelman@relmanlaw.com

Marcia Rosen, NHLP, (415) 546-7000, mrosen@nhlp.org

Maeve Elise Brown, HERA, 510-271-8443, ext. 307 melisebrown@heraca.org

James Zharadka, LFSV, 408-280-2423, JamesZ@lawfoundation.org

Nick Sifuentes, Berlin Rosen Public Affairs 310-866-1692, nick@berlinrosen.com

Additional background:

The City of Richmond’s local principal reduction program Richmond CARES, launched with a vote by City Council in April, will acquire certain underwater mortgages, through regular purchase or eminent domain if necessary, in order to restructure the troubled mortgages and help the homeowners modify or refinance, getting them mortgages with reduced principal in-line with current home values.  Community, labor and faith groups supporting the program say it will allow the City to preserve wealth in local hands, especially in communities of color and low-income communities that have been decimated by the foreclosure crisis and see no end in sight. In Richmond, 51% of all residential mortgage holders are still underwater.

In August, more than 50 fair housing, labor and community groups sent a letter to Congress, declaring that federal agencies should respect the right of cities like to pursue local principal reduction programs without facing redlining or illegal discrimination by the big banks or federal agencies.

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