April 6, 2010

Woodstock Institute staff and members of the Illinois Community Investment Coalition (ICIC) left a big impression at last month’s National Community Reinvestment Coalition Annual Conference. Woodstock President Dory Rand, Senior Vice President Geoff Smith, and Vice President Tom Feltner shared Woodstock’s expertise with community investment advocates from across the country as presenters on panels with topics inlcuding strategies to influence elected officials, foreclosure prevention, and promoting sustainable lending.

March 29, 2010

The Obama administration recently announced key changes to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) programs. These changes address key drivers of foreclosure—unemployment and mortgage balances that are worth more than the property value, also known as underwater mortgages.

March 18, 2010

If you live in Illinois, call your State Senator and tell them to support the Consumer Installment Loan Reform Act (SB655 Amendment #1) today.

March 2, 2010

While talks over financial reform legislation continue in the Senate, the financial industry is stepping up their attacks against attempts to create a more just financial system that would encourage investment in communities, allow small businesses to grow and flourish, and put consumers' interests as a top priority.

February 23, 2010

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) released a Policy Statement on Tax-Related Products and a Consumer Advisory on February 18, one month into the current tax season. The OCC is the U.S. Treasury Department agency that regulates national banks. Several national banks offer tax refund anticipation loans or RALs through partnerships with tax preparation services.

Tags: RALs, policy
February 22, 2010

After Darren Robinson lost his job at a factory, he and his girlfriend Julie Fitzpatrick accrued almost $10,000 in credit card debt paying for living expenses and medical bills. Fitzpatrick found a company online that promised to make them debt free. The couple told the Chicago Tribune that they paid almost $1,500 in fees to the debt settlement company. After a few months, only $2,000 of the debt was settled, and their debts ballooned to $12,000 as collection calls and fees increased.

February 12, 2010

Momentum continues to build in Washington around expanding small business access to sustainable credit, despite the postponement of the hearing to consider the state of small business lending in local markets in the House Small Business and Financial Services Committees. Keeping credit flowing to small businesses is critical, especially in times of recession and high unemployment. Small businesses are engines for job creation, creating roughly 80 percent of new jobs and employing over half of private sector employees. Ensuring that small businesses are equipped to grow through productive, sustainable credit and create new jobs will be a vital component of economic recovery.

February 8, 2010

A coalition of community reinvestment and consumer organizations asked the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), charged with overseeing consumer protections for national banks, to immediately implement its longstanding, but unenforced, disclosure requirements, advertising standards, and capital requirements for refund anticipation loans.  The consumer organizations sent a joint letter on February 4, 2010.

January 27, 2010

The scramble to secure tax refund loan partnerships before the opening day of the 2010 tax season is the direct result of a regulatory crackdown that many consumer advocates believe was long overdue. With one major lender undercapitalized and another under increased scrutiny, it is clear regulators are beginning to take notice of the issue. However, both of these actions were taken to protect the safety and soundness of the banks themselves, not to protect the Illinois consumers who paid $114 million dollars in 2006 just to receive their tax refund loan a few days earlier than if they had waited for the IRS refund.

January 25, 2010

Woodstock Institute recently called on policymakers to approve funds to replace substandard mobile homes with energy-efficient manufactured homes.  These new efficiency standards and additional funding would build on successful but limited local efforts to replace mobile homes—often the housing option of last resort for many low-wealth people.

January 14, 2010

With Senator Dodd’s announcement on January 6 that he will retire after this year and the likelihood that his successor as Senate Banking Committee chair will be less pro-consumer, there is an even greater urgency to complete work on financial reform proposals pending in Congress.  We cannot afford to lose momentum towards creating a more just financial system that protects consumers, communities, and the financial system from another near collapse, bailout, and recession.

January 7, 2010

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke started the new year with a reflective address to the American Economic Association on the causes of the financial crisis and steps to prevent a future crisis. Chairman Bernanke strongly stressed the need for “better, smarter” regulation and concedes that the Fed’s attempts at regulating the mortgage lending market were too little, too late. “Stronger regulation and supervision aimed at problems with underwriting practices and lenders' risk management would have been a more effective and surgical approach to constraining the housing bubble than a general increase in interest rates,” Bernanke said.

December 16, 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives made a historic vote in favor of consumers by passing H.R. 4173, the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009,” on December 11. This bill would create an agency with authority to set strong protections for financial products, such as mortgages, payday loans, and credit cards.

November 24, 2009

Groups advocating on behalf of Illinois residents threatened by foreclosures recently won two important victories: the approval of a $3 million Cook County budget allocation for foreclosure mediation and the passage of a bill in the Illinois General Assembly empowering municipalities to better address the problem of vacant and foreclosed properties in their communities.

November 10, 2009

The regulatory reform proposal released today by Chairman Dodd (D-CT) goes a long way to ensuring that consumers and communities across the country have access to safe, affordable, and sustainable financial products.   We believe that the proposal brings us closer to ending the assumption that some financial institutions are too big to fail, protecting the financial system against systemic risk, creating a single federal banking regulator, and enforcing the consumer protections that have gone unenforced for far too long.  

October 30, 2009

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) introduced bills in October targeted at curbing some of the abusive practices of overdraft protection programs. A recent Woodstock report cited the impact of overdraft programs on older persons and found that this product, and other high cost forms of credit, may increase economic insecurity later in life.

October 20, 2009

As early as today the U.S. House Financial Services will vote on a bill aimed at reforming our nation’s troubled financial system by creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. This agency would do the same thing for financial products that the Food and Drug Administration does for medical safety and the Consumer Products Safety Commission does for products like toys and electronics: set common sense rules to keep institutions from peddling bad mortgages and loans that destroy families’ financial futures. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency could have headed this financial crisis off at the pass by preventing millions of mortgages with wildly adjustable rates and exploding payments from ever entering the market.

August 25, 2009

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency (H.R. 3126), the new financial watchdog proposed by the Obama administration and currently being debated in Congress, would have the authority to protect small businesses from risky, unregulated financial products. 

August 25, 2009

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency (H.R. 3126), the new financial watchdog proposed by the Obama administration and currently being debated in Congress, would have the authority to protect small businesses from risky, unregulated financial products. 

January 12, 2009

As banks and other lenders across the country tighten credit requirements and close down lending facilities, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) continue to make quality investments in underserved neighborhoods.

Tags: policy, CDFIs