Housing advocates celebrate anniversary of Community Reinvestment Act

Program changed dynamics of housing finance

Affordable housing advocates have an additional anniversary to celebrate on Columbus Day, the 38th anniversary of the Community Reinvestment Act.

The law was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

While housing advocates celebrate the CRA, some critics say the push for affordable housing was the primary driver towards lax lending standards of the last housing bubble.

National Community Reinvestment Coalition President and CEO John Taylor says the law was critical for bringing affordability to housing for those on the lowest economic rungs.

“The signing of the Community Reinvestment Act into law was a critically important moment for economic fairness in the United States. The affirmative obligation that banks serve and make safe and sound loans in the communities where they are chartered, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, has opened doors to economic opportunity for millions of working Americans,” he said. “Today, action should be taken to modernize the law and expand it to cover other institutions such as credit unions and independent mortgage companies, so that its benefits will be felt even more broadly.”

Since 1996, CRA-covered banks issued more than 22 million small business loans in low- and moderate-income tracts, totaling more than $918 billion. 

Further, CRA-covered banks made more than $796 billion of community development loans. Community development loans support affordable housing and economic development projects benefiting low- and moderate-income communities.  

Spending on the programs has increased exponentially in recent years.

The annual dollar amount of community development loans increased 321% from $17.7 billion in 1996 to $74.6 billion in 2014. The annual dollar amount likewise increased 85% from 2010 to 2014. 

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