Charlene Crowell

Charlene Crowell, Senior Fellow at Center for Responsible Lending

Policy group calls for fair housing, Black business assistance and more

The 2020 presidential election triggered a record number of participating voters. Never before had so many people cast their preferences. And similarly, together substantiated how divided the nation is.  

 

For Black America, the financial ravages of the year have brought deeper and more devastating circumstances to bear. Disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities have been denied the opportunity to comfort loved ones hospitalized, or even to collectively mourn the loss of family and friends. The continuing pandemic has also depleted the financial resources of those who lack sufficient resources to cover financial emergencies. When these same economically-disadvantaged consumers also suffer job losses, lay-offs and reduced working hours, mounting household debts are inevitable.    

 

“We are in the midst of a pandemic caused by an abject failure of federal leadership that has left tens of millions unemployed, the economy in collapse, nearly half of the nation’s Black small businesses decimated, 40 million Americans at risk of foreclosure and eviction, and Black homeownership at levels not seen since the 1960, when racial discrimination in housing was legal,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League 

 

In the throes of these challenges, the president-elect has yet to receive cooperation toward a peaceful transition of power. He must instead draw upon the expertise and insights of those proficient in key areas of concern to construct a myriad of remedies needed now more than ever.  

 

While pundits focus on the first 100 days of the next administration, people from all walks of life hope in earnest for an inclusive economic recovery, one that includes communities long-marginalized. And lest anyone purport that communities of color are overly-sensitive, we need only remind naysayers of how the housing recovery from the Great Recession left behind the very people who were harmed the most: Black and Latino communities.   

 

A straightforward first step is for President-Elect Biden to move swiftly to restore fair housing rules that were gutted by President Trump’s administration.  

 

In 2015, President Obama’s administration issued the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, which provided long-overdue guidance for local governments and others to implement a mandate of the same name in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This key development in civil rights law’s Affirmatively Furthering mandate required active steps to end segregation, promote integration, and ensure all neighborhoods are well-resourced. It also assured that local residents would have access to housing opportunities.     

 

Under President Trump the Department of Housing and Urban Development  repealed the regulation and replaced it with a rule that was described as “weak and toothless” by Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance.  

  

Even the collection of data on mortgage discrimination has been cut. These rollbacks and others are described in a report entitled, Turning Back the Clock: How the Trump Administration Has Undermined 50 Years of Fair Housing Progress released by Ohio’s Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Ranking Member on the U.S. Banking Committee.  

 

At the same time, we know that real progress must be pursued beyond familiar and often ineffective remedies. Preserving the status quo will never provide help that is desperately needed.  

 

Toward this end,  has proposed a 100-day agenda for the incoming Administration and the new Congress to address financial justice in all of its forms.  

 

To expand fair, inclusive, and sustainable homeownership, the Center calls for several actions including:  

  • Targeted reparations in a homeownership program that includes direct down payment grants for low-wealth, first-time Black and Brown homebuyers as well as others disadvantaged by exclusionary federal homeownership policies; and  

  • Eliminating reliance on credit-scoring systems that entrench historic discrimination.   

 

Recognizing that the broken higher education financing system also perpetuates the racial wealth gap, the center suggests a range of reforms to immediately relieve the crushing burden of student debt, including broad-based cancellation. 

 

“Too often, predatory financial services and products prevent families and small businesses from accessing opportunities, and instead impede our ability to reduce poverty and close the racial wealth gap”, states a CRL policy brief that includes a combination of administrative and legislative actions.   

 

As a people, let’s call upon a new administration to end our long-suffering wait.  

If this recovery is to be different, the calls for action must be heeded. Now is the time to stand up and speak out not just for what we want, but for what we also deserve

 

Charlene Crowell is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org

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