Tag Archives: Community Reinvestment Act

CRA Bashing, Nth Generation

The Community Reinvestment Act is a law originally passed in 1977 that directed federal regulatory agencies to ensure that the banks they supervised were not discriminating against particular communities in making credit available.The onset of the subprime mortgage crisis triggered a flood of sloppy, lazy attacks on the CRA claiming that since the crisis was created by excess lending to the poor, and the CRA was intended to increase lending to the poor, the CRA must have caused the crisis. These arguments suffered from a mistaken premise (subprime lending had a modest negative correlation with income, but many subprime loans were used by the middle class to buy expensive houses in the suburbs and exurbs of California and Nevada) and a failure to check their facts (“Only six percent of all the higher-priced loans were extended by CRA-covered lenders to lower-income borrowers or neighborhoods in their CRA assessment areas, the local geographies that are the primary focus for CRA evaluation purposes.” — Randall Kroszner, former Fed governor appointed by President George W. Bush, in a Federal Reserve study that also found that subprime loan performance was no worse in CRA-covered zip codes than in slightly more affluent zip codes not covered by the CRA.)

Yesterday at a Cato Institute conference, Edward Pinto, chief credit officer at Fannie from 1987 to 1989 and currently a real estate financial services industry consultant (according to recent Congressional testimony), rolled out the new line. The new argument is a curious mirror image of the old argument (which Pinto himself may not have made): now the subprime explosion did not cause the housing bubble, but was caused by the housing bubble and … wait for it … the CRA caused the housing bubble, along with the affordable housing goals of Fannie and Freddie.

Continue reading