Looking back on the past year, I am thankful that financial justice champions made significant progress at the local, state and national levels. While we certainly did not get everything we asked for on our wish lists, we got more than the equivalent of lumps of coal in the form of new laws, rules, and programs. Woodstock Institute was pleased to collaborate with colleagues on many of the 2010 successes, including the following:
• The Dodd-Frank Act, which enacted far-reaching financial reform including the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
• New overdraft loan consumer protections requiring that consumers “opt in” to the program
• Interagency public hearings across the country on reforms needed to the Community Reinvestment Act and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
• Increased federal funding for Community Development Financial Institutions
• New Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rules allowing CRA credit for bank efforts in areas receiving Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to revitalize areas hardest hit by foreclosures
• Elimination of asset tests in public benefit programs in many states across the country
• Increased regulatory scrutiny of banks involved in tax refund anticipation loans and exit of Chase and HSBC from offering RALs
• Creation of Circuit Court of Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program and the accompanying community outreach campaign
• Woodstock’s cutting edge research, including the Diverted Opportunity report on RALs, Paying More for the American Dream IV report on mortgage lending trends, regular foreclosure updates, and the Bridging the Gap report on credit scores
• Completion of Illinois Children’s Savings Account Task Force meetings, hearings and report
Looking ahead, 2011 is going to be another very busy and exciting year. Woodstock Institute will continue to work on the unfinished aspects of the policy work described above, continue to report on the impacts of foreclosures in the Chicago region, and conduct new research on fair lending, wealth creation and financial reform issues. Many states, including our home state of Illinois, must grapple with structural deficits before other progress can occur. Advocates must weigh in on discussions of the federal deficit so that proposed solutions do not further exacerbate the growing wealth gap. While we may see fewer federal legislative victories for low-wealth consumers and communities in 2011, we believe there are opportunities to enact some key regulatory changes and influence important budget policies so that we can advance economic security and community prosperity for all.
We can’t do it alone. The collaboration of diverse organizations from across the Chicago region and beyond is necessary to influencing decision-makers, educating the public, and improving the fortunes of low-wealth communities and communities of color. We value the hard work of our regional, statewide, and national partners and look forward to building new relationships in the new year.
Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday season and a happy new year!