Every day, we see families and communities struggling with foreclosure, job loss, debt, and lack of access to affordable credit as a result of the foreclosure and economic crisis. Many of our families, friends, and neighbors have lost their homes, suffered damaged credit, or filed for bankruptcy. Consequently, fewer people have access to affordable credit to buy a home, start a business, pay for college, and so on. The wealth gap between the haves and the have nots has widened significantly. The problems continue to hit hardest in communities of color, where there is a higher concentration of predatory lending, low credit scores, and bankruptcies.
Our job at Woodstock Institute is to address problems like these by creating a more just financial system that enables individuals, families, and communities to establish financial security, build wealth, and create vibrant neighborhoods.
The context today is significantly different than it was even a couple of years ago. One major change of recent years is the passage of The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As we go forward, one challenge will be ensuring that financial systems reforms created by Dodd-Frank are implemented effectively. It will be especially important to keep our eyes on the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency responsible for overseeing financial products and services and ensuring that the financial market works fairly for consumers and industry players. The CFPB will write important new rules, such as rules relating to credit disclosures and defining “qualified residential mortgages.”
In the post-Dodd-Frank context, we at Woodstock Institute have significant opportunities to make an impact on issues related to financial security. More people are aware of and interested in these issues now and can find out about them by downloading our research reports, policy position papers, and fact sheets at woodstockinst.org. As a result, we have a better chance to build consensus on economic security issues, advance good policies and products, and ensure that the lessons learned in this crisis are not forgotten. We will continue to raise awareness and encourage public input and policy advocacy on economic justice issues.
In this annual report, our stories focus on our key areas—fair lending, wealth creation and preservation, and financial systems reform. One example is how Woodstock research shed light on the impact of mortgage servicers who walk away from vacant properties, devastating local neighborhoods like the Roseland community in Chicago. The stories we tell and share can lead to better local and national policies and programs. We will continue to look closely at how financial products, services, and policies affect our neighbors—and strive to advance economic security and community prosperity.