Woodstock Institute's 2016 Policy Agenda

President Dory Rand describes Woodstock's policy agenda for the year.

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The Chicago six county region had an 11.2 percent decline in foreclosure filings, and Chicago a 9.6 percent decline, between 2014 and 2015. Chicago Community Areas with the greatest declines from 2014 to 2015 include Armour Square (60 percent), Forest Glen and Oakland (43 percent), and Irving Park (39 percent). Despite the overall decrease, nearly a quarter of the 77 Chicago Community Areas recorded increases in the number of foreclosure filings between 2014 and 2015. Most notably, the Austin neighborhood had 408 foreclosure filings in 2015, a 10 percent increase from last year and the highest number of filings within a neighborhood in Chicago. I encourage you to play and interact with the data.

As I look at the current landscape in search of barriers to economic security and community prosperity and for opportunities to create effective solutions to those problems, I am excited about the year ahead and about using Woodstock Institute’s applied research, policy analysis, and coalition-building skills to reduce inequality and to increase equitable lending and investments in under served low- and moderate-income (LMI) areas and communities of color, help people and communities build and preserve wealth; and improve access to safe and affordable financial products, services, and systems.

Woodstock will continue to work at local, state, and national levels in 2016 in partnership with existing and new allies. While we will continue to provide extensive regional and Illinois data and technical assistance through our data portal and TA program, we will also use some of the lessons learned from our local data analysis and advocacy efforts to influence developments in other states and at the federal level. Here are some of the highlights of our 2016 policy agenda:

Several years ago, Woodstock joined with other consumer advocates to pass legislation to protect consumers from short-term predatory loans.  The Payday Loan Reform Act became law in 2005, and reforms to the Consumer Installment Loan Act became law in 2011.  Among other positive changes, those laws placed caps on the amount of interest that lenders can charge.  But now, predatory lenders are creeping into the area of lending to small businesses.  A report published by Woodstock in August 2014 entitled Discredited: Disparate Access to Credit for Businesses in the Chicago Six County Region reveals that lending by traditional banks is insufficient to meet the demand for small business loans, particularly for businesses in lower-income areas and for businesses in communities of color.  Non-bank, “alternative” lenders, which are largely unregulated, are striving to meet this unmet demand.  These alternative lenders, which provide high-cost loans with interest rates as high as 200 percent are not even required to disclose the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on their loans, which makes it difficult for borrowers to know how much their loan costs, which, in turn, makes it difficult to engage in comparison shopping.

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