From the President: NCRC conference bridges gap between local realities, national policies

Written by Dory Rand on April 17, 2013 - 3:25pm
Major federal policy decisions are so often made without consideration of what reality is like outside of the Beltway. One of our key goals at Woodstock is to make sure that the voices of people working on the ground in Illinois are heard by decision-makers in Washington, D.C.

Our voices were heard loud and clear this year at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition annual conference, where we had the opportunity to take our priorities to bank regulators and 15 members of the Illinois Congressional delegation. We were joined by a delegation of nearly 30 Illinoisans from housing counseling agencies, community organizations, nonprofit developers, universities, and more.

We asked for strong action on payday loans, including support of the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act (co-sponsored by Illinois’ Sen. Durbin, Rep. Schakowsky, and Rep. Enyart), which would end some of the worst practices of online payday lenders by protecting consumers’ bank accounts, creating a level playing field for all lenders, banning lead generators, and more. Payday lenders tried last year to introduce a bill that would create a federal charter for payday lenders, essentially eliminating all state consumer protections, and we told legislators that the federal payday charter must be opposed if it comes up again. Finally, we told the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) how bank-based payday lending circumvents state consumer protections and that strong regulatory action is needed to limit the harm that they cause.

Legislators need to know that homeowners and renters are still severely impacted by the foreclosure crisis and need ongoing support. Our housing counselor colleagues from Northwest Side Housing Center and Spanish Coalition for Housing spoke about the importance of counseling to preventing foreclosure whenever possible and helping new homeowners make responsible decisions. We stressed the need for restoring HUD  housing counseling funding to its 2010 levels of $88 million. We also asked that legislators to support the rights of tenants living in foreclosed buildings and make the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act permanent.

Our recent report, Unequal Opportunity: Disparate Mortgage Origination Patterns for Women in the Chicago Area, identified troubling disparities in women’s access to mortgage credit that merit further investigation into potential fair lending violations. We brought up our concerns with the OCC, the FDIC, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 

On and off Capitol Hill, the NCRC conference was a resounding success.  It brought together more than 600 community investment stakeholders from Maine to Hawaii to take their local concerns to federal policymakers, learn about how to promote economic opportunity in their neighborhoods, and learn from each other’s successes and challenges. Highlights include an excellent keynote address by CFPB Director Richard Cordray on making a level playing field for all consumers, Comptroller of the Currency Tom Curry speaking on the importance and impact of the Community Reinvestment Act in our communities, a discussion from Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin on how community groups must pressure regulators to consider the needs of economically marginalized groups, a speech by Marty Gruenberg of the FDIC discussing how working in the Bronx taught him about the importance of community development, and a lively panel between bank regulators and advocates about how to use the Community Reinvestment Act to promote meaningful change in low- and moderate-income communities.

I’m also proud to announce that Woodstock Institute received the 2013 James Rouse Award for outstanding urban non-profit organizations that best promote fair and equal access to credit and capital and promote wealth-building in traditionally underserved populations. Thank you to all of Woodstock’s former and present  staff and board members whose contributions earned this honor.

You can explore photos of the Illinois delegation at NCRC in the slideshow below. I hope to see you there next year!

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