Seattle Neighborhood Planning

At first glance, the Neighborhood Planning Program in Seattle, Washington, sounds like a remarkably progressive idea. Begun in 1995, the program is one of many across the country that have sought to open up the often arcane process of neighborhood planning to greater citizen participation. The program has involved thousands of Seattle residents (12,000, according […]

Planning Power

Many recent changes in Minneapolis, Minnesota – from community schools to traffic calming to new streetlights to community policing – are being designed, proposed, and even implemented by city residents, as part of an ambitious program designed to give citizens power in their city’s priority-setting processes. While the program has had its share of growing […]

Financial “Progress” Leaves Communities Behind

For the past 20 years, the financial services industries have lobbied Congress to rewrite the key law that regulates them to better serve their particular interests. President Clinton has just signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (S. 900), which will repeal the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act that forbade mergers of banks, finance and insurance companies, and […]

Opportunity in Next Wave of Mergers

Final passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley bill means neighborhoods are likely to face two new investment battles, one local and one national. Locally, we’ll face a window of opportunity for new Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) agreements during what’s likely to be a new wave of mergers. Nationally, this legislation, which watered down the CRA, may be […]

Hopeful Signs

We hate being bummed out at the end of a millennium. Makes it tough to enjoy those 00 years. But as we approach the end of the year, the century, and the millennium, it’s hard not to be concerned. HUD keeps churning out reports like Losing Ground and Waiting in Vain, reminding us about all […]

Into Every Life a Little Sunshine Must Fall

An important part of the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s mission to ensure decent, affordable housing within healthy neighborhoods for everyone is the work state housing coalitions have done with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Banks and savings institutions have committed more than $400 billion to low-income neighborhoods through negotiated CRA agreements. CRA has succeeded […]

Shelter Shorts

New York City Sweeps Up Homeless New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has struck again, this time against the city’s homeless. Homeless advocates were already concerned about Giuliani’s recently proposed work for shelter plan, which threatens to throw the homeless out of shelters if they refuse to or cannot work, and possibly even place homeless […]

Congress Passes, Communities Pay

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley paves the way for a wave of mergers creating Citigroup-like conglomerates that span banking, insurance and securities, and control hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. The bill is the culmination of two decades of effort by industry groups, and to judge from the standing ovation their lobbyists gave the conference committee when […]

Capital Campaigns

Burdened by the typical funding limitation CDCs face – program specific, short term, restricted use, etc. – Isles, Inc. of Trenton, New Jersey decided to create an endowment – invested funds that over time should grow and offer financial returns in support of Isles’ work. Three years ago, Isles began its first capital campaign to […]

You Get What You Need

To quote Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you’ll get what you need.” The CRA provisions in the financial modernization bill are the classic result of the legislative process in a democracy: They are an ambiguous compromise that leaves both sides dissatisfied. Senator Phil Gramm did […]

Clearing the Air

The Bronx neighborhood of Hunts Point has one of the highest asthma rates in the world. Home to the world’s largest food distribution center, the Hunts Point Terminal Market, which accounts for nearly 20,000 diesel truck trips per week, it is also the site of over two dozen waste transfer stations, a raw sewage de-watering […]

Banks Spend Millions To Line Their Pockets With Your Money

In 1997 and 1998, banks, insurance companies, and brokerage firms spent over $300 million on lobbying and political contributions. While their “investment” in pushing so-called financial modernization legislation through Congress is inimical to the public interest, it is sure to yield a high rate of return in future industry profits. The new behemoths allowed by […]

Financial Reform Bill a CRA Coup, Despite Its Flaws

Though some have declared war on the financial services modernization legislation, it is important to keep perspective on issues such as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The conference agreement between the Senate and House contains several key victories for those who support community reinvestment and development. First, the bill preserves the existing CRA. This creates […]

Communities Need to Capitalize on Financial Services Modernization Act

Seldom in legislation as complex as the recently enacted Financial Services Modernization Act does any group get everything it wants. In this case, however, I suspect that nearly everyone involved in shaping this initiative has something to feel good about. First, community development professionals should celebrate the fact that the legislation upholds the legitimacy of […]

CRA Weakened

The Community Reinvestment Act, a major tool for twenty years in bringing capital and fairer banking into low income neighborhoods, has been weakened by this year’s financial deregulation bill. This law will allow for example, Chase Manhattan to now buy State Farm or Allstate without any consideration of the insurance companies’ records of fairly writing […]

Rural Lending in the Financial Modernization Era

The banking industry has touted financial modernization as revolutionary legislation that will improve services and reduce costs for all Americans. The actual outcomes may be mixed for rural areas, which have fewer banking institutions per county than urban areas and face barriers to credit that raise the cost of mortgages. While increased consolidation in the […]

Financial Modernization: A CRA Organizer’s Worst Nightmare

Shortly after the passage of the Financial Modernization Act, a banker was heard to say to Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, the executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, “Now you folks are going to have to get out of the protesting business!” If there is any question about the effect of the passage of that bill on […]

“Banking Jackpot”

“All in all, I think we hit the jackpot,” President Ronald Reagan told a Rose Garden audience of congressmen and lobbyists celebrating the deregulation of the savings and loan industry on Oct. 15, 1982. Less than seven years later, a somewhat red-faced Congress was forced to adopt a massive package of reforms and launch a […]

CRA Survives Its Toughest Challenge

There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result. –Winston Churchill The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has survived the most serious attack in its 22-year history. The financial services modernization bill was “probably the most heavily lobbied, most expensive issue” before Congress in a generation, according to a leading banking lobbyist. The industry […]