CRA Regulatory Reform

Following much talk about the need to update Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rules since this was last done in 1995, federal banking agencies have finally agreed on a proposed redesign of standards essential to banks that wish to expand or acquire as well as those seeking strong community ties and the policy and political benefit these afford.  Much of the complexity in the NPR results from the agencies’ decision to allow only partial credit for activities (e.g., mortgages) largely assumed in the past to benefit low-and-moderate income (LMI) households if they occurred in LMI census tracts as well as to condition product approval on the extent to which LMI-household needs are demonstrably met.  Offsetting these restrictions to some extent are broader criteria for eligible community-development and -service activities, but only wholesale and limited-purpose banks will enjoy the full benefit because new weightings require regulators to give the most weight to retail finance at most large banks.