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Proposal to reform the Community Reinvestment Act misses the mark

The ongoing protests and the celebration of Juneteenth have led to a moment of national reflection on the fight for racial justice. We have made significant progress, but the struggle for equality is far from over. Housing has historically been a fundamental component of structural inequality. And while the federal government has implemented programs that accurately address historic inequities, now is the time to commit to those programs and ensure they work as intended – not to implement radical changes to them.

The next step in the fight against racial injustice should be to redouble our efforts and preserve the programs that can create the meaningful, long term change Americans deserve. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is one program that should be protected in order to best provide for low-income families and small-business owners in a time of great vulnerability.

The CRA has played an instrumental role in supporting low-income communities by preventing redlining and instead encouraging banks to meet the credit needs of their respective communities. Since its passage in 1977, federal financial regulators have monitored how banks fulfill the needs of its neighborhood residents, have ensured that they actively open new branches in low-and-middle income communities, and have taken part in various community development loans and investments to rehabilitate distressed neighborhoods.

Recently proposed changes to the CRA threaten to upend this infrastructure. Changes to the program would eliminate federal responsibility to monitor banking equity and, in the process, would place countless low-income families at risk. While we should diligently examine long-in-place regulatory frameworks and explore ways to modernize them, changes that take resources away from communities in need completely miss the mark.

Instead of these proposed changes, we should find ways to better serve vulnerable communities as there is still much work to do. New York is one of the world’s most diverse cities and yet is the second most segregated urban environment in the country. It is New Yorkers of color who are disproportionately impacted by our affordability crisis. We are seeing the impact of these inequalities right now, where New Yorkers of color are much more likely to contract coronavirus.

Where and how we live has profound impacts on every facet of our lives. A legacy of discriminatory housing policy continues to shape all aspects of our communities, including healthcare, education, and financial welfare. Now more than ever we must work to address these long-standing issues through our housing policies.

NYSAFAH strongly opposes any regulations of the Community Reinvestment Act that will only harm low-income communities. We are committed to fighting for equitable housing that serves everyone. We will continue to fight for the affordable housing programs that will create a housing infrastructure in which everyone can find a safe, quality and affordable home.

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