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Monday, 31 December 2012

The Community Reinvestment Act is remembered and allocated its share of the blame at last

The reason blog reports that:
''twas Wall Street greed what done it, some folks say, when it comes to explaining the spectacular housing meltdown of recent years, which had its roots in a great many astonishingly risky loans.

Other folks suggest that the federal government just may have played something of a role in inducing, even strong-arming, banks to take risks they otherwise would have avoided. Specifically, the Community Reinvestment Act and related policy pressures are pointed to as culprits, part of a government effort to extend home-ownership in lower-income neighborhoods. Now comes a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that says, quite bluntly. that the CRA played a major role. In the academic world, mealy-mouthed delivery of even powerful conclusions is the norm, so it's refreshing to see authors Sumit Agarwal, Efraim Benmelech, Nittai Bergman, Amit Seru answer the title's question, "Did the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Lead to Risky Lending?," with the clear, "Yes, it did. ... We find that adherence to the act led to riskier lending by banks."'
Do read the whole article at the above link but also remember that I've covered this before:

First in September 2008:
I have wanted to blog about the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for some months now but have been cautious of doing so for obvious reasons. However the vitriol being spewed out, by the usual suspects in the left wing media, at the banking community has really pissed me off. So here we go, as Forbes tells us:
"The CRA forces banks to make loans in poor communities, loans that banks may otherwise reject as financially unsound. Under the CRA, banks must convince a set of bureaucracies that they are not engaging in discrimination, a charge that the act encourages any CRA-recognized community group to bring forward. Otherwise, any merger or expansion the banks attempt will likely be denied. But what counts as discrimination?

According to one enforcement agency, "discrimination exists when a lender's underwriting policies contain arbitrary or outdated criteria that effectively disqualify many urban or lower-income minority applicants." Note that these "arbitrary or outdated criteria" include most of the essentials of responsible lending: income level, income verification, credit history and savings history--the very factors lenders are now being criticized for ignoring."
I know this is not the agreed narrative but it is the truth.
In February 2009:


I have blogged many times about the Community Reinvestment Act and how it was one of the key factors in creating the US housing bubble as well as its effect on UK housing finance. You should read my earlier articles - here, here, here, here (in October 2008) the links to Barack Obama and here the links to UK policy.

I raise the matter today because Christopher Booker in The Telegraph yesterday wrote
"It is all very well for President Obama to vent his anger on all those US bankers who continued to claim billions of dollars in bonuses while expecting Washington to bail them out after the sub-prime mortgage scandal brought the banks to their knees. But conveniently overlooked has been the curious part Mr Obama himself played in the sub-prime debacle.

At the heart of it was a 1995 amendment to the Community Reinvestment Act which legally required banks to lend money to buy homes to millions of poor, mainly black Americans, guaranteed by the two biggest mortgage associations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And no one campaigned more actively for this change to the law than Mr Obama, as a young but already influential Chicago politician.

It was this Act which, more than anything, helped to create the US housing bubble, well beyond the point where it was obvious that hundreds of thousands of homeowners would be likely to default. And in 2005 no one more actively opposed moves to halt Fannie Mae's reckless guarantees than Senator Obama, as he was by then. As the official records show, no senator received more donations from Fannie Mae than he did (although Hillary Clinton ran him close). Thus no US politician arguably did more to promote the sub-prime disaster than the man now expected to pick up the pieces, Rather like Gordon Brown, really. "

I couldn't have put it better myself and somehow I doubt that this story will get anywhere near the BBC where the Obamamessiah is beyond criticism and will remain so so long as he follows the BBC approved line.
 In March 2009:
'A very interesting article in the New York Times should be read here. It's from 30 September 1999 that's whilst Bill Clinton was President and in the light of the current sub-prime crisis it is quite enlightening:
"In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''

Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.'' "


Read the whole article and wonder at how the MSM and especially the BBC have just ignored this angle on the banking crisis. Anyone would think they had an agenda...'

What are the chances of the BBC reporting this analysis? Zero?

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