The Comptroller of the Currency Thomas J. Curry discussed potential changes to The Community Reinvestment Act on Wednesday at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition's conference.

“A recurring theme in the public comments was the lack of community development lending and investment in rural areas and small towns,” said Curry.

He added, banks attributed the problem to a lack of clarity in the CRA, causing them to not lend outside their community develop for fear that they would not receive CRA support.

“Our goal in proposing revised guidance is to provide more clarity so that banks will look into more opportunities to lend and make investments in rural and undeserved areas in their broader statewide and regional areas,” said Curry. 

In light of the new rules, the OCC said they would revise the examination procedures and train examiners to ensure that the rules will be applied consistently.

Curry said one of the main issues is “whether banks that draw deposits or engage in significant lending beyond their branch based assessment areas should have increased CRA responsibilities in these outlying areas.”

Currently, Curry said that if a bank draws deposits from a community it should bear responsibility to meet the credit needs of that community.

“The question is whether lending alone creates a greater CRA obligation. Today, more often than not, banks rely on securitization [via the GSEs], rather than deposits, to fund lending activities,” said Curry.

The OCC sent the proposed revisions to the Federal Register last week, and the CRA changes are open for comment and amendments until May 17.