West Bronx resident and freelance journalist Eileen Markey goes in depth with ACORN on their relationship with CRA and subprime lending over the last decade in a piece in City Limits Weekly. Read about how they were one of many community groups fighting predatory lending and pushing for quality lending, not the toxic stuff that ended up blanketing low and moderate income communities of color.
But ACORN and other proponents of the Community Reinvestment Act – the 1977 law requiring banks to lend in all communities from which they receive deposits – did promote a fairly nuanced message. They lobbied for more quality lending in low-income and minority communities while also calling for more stringent regulation of the kind of non-bank lenders like Countrywide that fueled the mortgage crisis. Campaigns by ACORN and like-minded groups including the Chicago-based Neighborhood Training and Information Center sought to shrink the risky-mortgage business by pressuring investment banks not to buy the debt, and also pushed for changes in the way banks measured creditworthiness so that people with lower credit scores could be eligible for decent mortgages from real banks.
"A lot of this did not have to happen, and there were groups out there including ACORN that were sounding the alarm," said Ismene Speliotis, executive director of NY ACORN Housing, in an interview last week. But many investment banks, busy making oodles by investing in the sub-prime mortgages, didn't heed the warning.