Democrats and the media insist the Community Reinvestment Act, the anti-redlining law beefed up by President Clinton, had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crisis and recession... But a new study by the respected National Bureau of Economic Research finds, "Yes, it did. We find that adherence to that act led to riskier lending by banks."
Added NBER: "There is a clear pattern of increased defaults for loans made by these banks in quarters around the (CRA) exam. Moreover, the effects are larger for loans made within CRA tracts," or predominantly low-income and minority areas.
CRA regulations are at the core of Fannie's and Freddie's so-called affordable housing mission. In the early 1990s, a Democrat Congress gave HUD the authority to set and enforce (through fines) CRA-grade loan quotas at Fannie and Freddie... It passed a law requiring the government-backed agencies to "assist insured depository institutions to meet their obligations under the (CRA)." The goal was to help banks meet lending quotas by buying their CRA loans.
But they had to loosen underwriting standards to do it. And that's what they did.
"We want your CRA loans because they help us meet our housing goals," Fannie Vice Chair Jamie Gorelick beseeched lenders gathered at a banking conference in 2000, just after HUD hiked the mortgage giant's affordable housing quotas to 50% and pressed it to buy more CRA-eligible loans to help meet those new targets. "We will buy them from your portfolios or package them into securities."
She described "CRA-friendly products" as mortgages with less than "3% down" and "flexible underwriting." ... From 2001-2007, Fannie and Freddie bought roughly half of all CRA home loans, most carrying subprime features.
...Obama officials, who are cracking the CRA whip anew against banks, insist the law played no role in the mortgage meltdown... While the 1977 law was passed 30 years before the crisis, it underwent a major overhaul just 10 years earlier. Starting in 1995, banks were measured on their use of innovative and flexible" lending standards, which included reduced down payments and credit requirements.
Banks that didn't meet Clinton's tough new numerical lending targets were denied merger plans, among other penalties. CRA shakedown groups like Acorn held hostage the merger plans of banks like Citibank and Washington Mutual until they pledged more loans to credit-poor minorities... WaMu CEO Kerry Killinger has blamed the CRA for his bank's overexposure to risky loans. He said he wanted to tighten lending requirements, but "such measures would have presented other issues such as the company's CRA rating and its commitment to serving its (low-income and minority) customers and communities."
President Obama, in his younger days, was an attorney for Acorn and party to a lawsuit against Citibank. He, too, had a direct hand in triggering the mortgage meltdown.