California Advocates Attend National Community Reinvestment Conference in Washington, DC

Representatives from member organizations of the California Reinvestment Coalition traveled to Washington DC last week to attend the National Community Reinvestment Coalition conference.  The theme of the conference was “A Just Economy: Ideas, Action, Impact.”

The conference is a gathering of NCRC’s diverse membership base from around the US, including CDFI’s, fair housing organizations, housing counseling organizations, consumer advocates, credit counselors, small business lenders, community organizing and civil rights groups, and more.

Speakers at the conference included Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),Thomas Curry, Comptroller of the Currency, Steven Antonakes from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Martin Gruenberg, Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and more.

Shaun Donovan

Secretary Donovan spoke about potential reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and recognized the conference participants for their work to help people during the foreclosure crisis and to also help with rebuilding afterwards.  He also spoke about the ongoing crisis of a lack of affordable housing in communities across America and cited NCRC’s work to ensure that reforms to Fannie and Freddie don’t leave low-income communities behind.

Fleeced

Wednesday night included a screening of “Fleeced”, a documentary about elder financial abuse which was a big draw with a packed room. A panel discussion included Kim Jacobs, the producer of the film, Anita Gardner, a consumer in the film who faced an uphill battle with her bank when she sought assistance with her mortgage after health problems, as well as Robert Zdenek, the Director of National Neighbors Silver at NCRC, and Dory Rand, president of the Woodstock Institute. The film was commissioned by NCRC, with support from the Atlantic Philanthropies.  A screening will also be held in Sacramento on April 15th at 5:30pm, as part of the Housing California conference and Annette Smith, a consumer featured in the film will also be one of the panelists who speaks after the screening.

California delegates flew into Washington DC early to meet with our elected officials as well as banking and housing regulators.

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On Thursday, as part of NCRC’s Hill Day, CRC Members headed to Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives.  There were a number of topics to discuss, a few of the topics the California delegation discussed included:

  • Payday lending and the upcoming rule-making by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • The need for more investment in affordable housing in California, especially since the dissolution of redevelopment agencies that funded affordable housing
  • GSE reforms (and ensuring that low-income communities aren’t left behind)
  • A recent proposal for the USPS to offer financial services through a prepaid card
  • Effects of private equity firms and other investors buying up homes
  • The Permanently Protect Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2013
  • Extension of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act
  • Transparency around foreclosure reporting (to see if mortgage modifications and other assistance is getting to communities equally- a topic recently addressed in a February 2014 GAO report (read more here)
  • Small business lending (especially to minority business owners- read our December report about this issue here)
  • Future mortgage settlements, and concerns about transparency of who is receiving modifications, and whether modifications are getting to communities hit hardest
  • Bank mergers and the impact on rural California- For more on why this is such a pressing matter, see CRC’s “Down in the Valley” 2013 report, or our recent protest against the proposed acquisition of Sterling Bank by Umpqua Bank.
  • Issues faced by widowed homeowners who are facing foreclosure instead of receiving assistance from their bank or mortgage servicer. See this December 2013 article that explains why improvements, monitoring, and enforcement are still needed: “Bank might foreclose on home because late husband isn’t residing there

After meeting with their senators and representatives, attendees were especially excited by the lunchtime speaker: Senator Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA), an outspoken advocate who was paved the way for improvements in policies and programs affecting the same communities and people that NCRC’s members serve.

On Friday afternoon, CRC’s new Executive Director, Paulina Gonzalez spoke at a session: Winning Public Benefits for Your Community, with other advocates including Ernest Hogan, Executive Director of Pittsburgh Reinvestment Group, and Mitria Wilson, from NCRC.

Friday night closed with a bang!  The Rev. Dr. William Barber II was awarded the Senator William Proxmire award, which recognizes the individual whose life’s work exemplifies the spirit and work of Senator Proxmire’s contributions to economic mobility.  Dr. Barber gave a rousing speech about the need for organizations to work together to stop disinvestment in communities.  Senator Proxmire was the author and lead sponsor of the Community Reinvestment Act.

Kevin Stein, Associate Director at CRC, was also confirmed to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition board of directors.

A big thank you to our CRC members who joined the meetings, including:

It was another excellent conference put on by NCRC- See you next year!

California Reinvestment Coalition Hiring New Executive Director

It is with profoundly mixed emotions that the California Reinvestment Coalition’s (“CRC”) Board of Directors announces that, after 20 years of leading CRC to become the pre-eminent advocacy organization for fair and equal access to financial services in California, Executive Director Alan Fisher will retire in mid-2013. The Board has started a search for a successor to continue the high level of productive bank advocacy conducted by CRC members and staff.

“Alan’s contributions to financial justice in California and beyond are immeasurable, and he has been central to CRC achieving the stature that it enjoys today,” CRC Board Chair James Zahradka said. “It’s fair to say that Alan—by effectively insisting that financial institutions and government pay attention to low-income communities and communities of color—has been instrumental in reducing the disparities that these communities face in the financial services marketplace.”

Zahradka went on to say, “CRC is currently in an exceptionally strong position. The organization is on a firm financial footing with a highly qualified, experienced, and energetic staff to continue carrying out CRC’s critical mission.”

Since starting at CRC in 1992, Fisher has grown the organization from a small ad hoc coalition into a membership organization including over 300 California non-profits and governmental agencies.

Said former Board Chair Roberto Barragan, “More than ever, CRC has a critical role in the aftermath of a historic financial crisis and recession. The work it does as the nation’s leading state Community Reinvestment Act advocacy group speaks to the continuing tragedies of foreclosures, the exploitation of consumers by predatory financial service providers, and the dearth of small business credit for underserved communities. Alan has built CRC into a true institution in both achievement and future importance.”

Fisher said, “CRC is a wonderful organization with members who have deep roots in their communities. It is an honor to work with CRC members and allies to increase access to needed financial products and programs for California communities. We have won many battles and plan to win more to come.”

In addition to the growth of the organization, CRC’s recent accomplishments under Fisher’s leadership have included:

  • Negotiating Community Reinvestment Act agreements with banks to secure the delivery of responsible products and services to low-income communities in California, including a recent agreement with Union Bank which will result in significantly increased lending and technical assistance to, and investment in, small business, as well as funding to help affordable housing development; the creation of a low-cost banking account; and grants to support community development of at least $33 million through 2014;
  • Partnering with financial institutions, the San Francisco Foundation and the California Community Foundation to launch the California Homeownership Preservation Initiative, which resulted in increased capacity for homeownership counselors to help California homeowners avoid foreclosure. As a result, 44,685 homeowners were counseled and 6,343 foreclosures were prevented;
  • Organizing CRC members to comment on banks’ CRA examinations and merger and acquisition requests, which led to unprecedented levels of community engagement on critical issues around, among others, Bank of America’s acquisition of Countrywide and Capital One’s takeover of ING Direct;
  • Successfully pushing for passage of the California Homeowners’ Bill of Rights, landmark legislation which brings accountability to the banks for harmful foreclosure practices and allows homeowners to protect themselves from these all-too-common practices; and
  • Advocating with government regulators and policymakers for the abolition of harmful products such as Refund Anticipation Loans and payday loans, which has resulted in the virtual extinction of RALs and many California jurisdictions placing significant restrictions on payday lenders.

By announcing his retirement plans now, Fisher provides CRC with ample time for a search and a seamless transition of leadership. CRC’s Board has initiated its search process for the agency’s next Executive Director, which it plans to complete this summer.

To view the position announcement, visit this link:  Executive Director, California Reinvestment Coalition

About the California Reinvestment Coalition

Established in 1986, CRC is a non-profit organization which advocates for the right of low-income communities and communities of color to have fair and equal access to banking and other financial services.

For further information, contact:
James Zahradka, Chair, Board of Directors
(408) 280-2423
jamesz@lawfoundation.org