Postings

Biden’s Build Back Better Act to include historic expansion of funds to address homeownership gap for people of color
A broad group of consumer, housing and financial services advocates wrote the U.S. Senate to express support for the homeownership components in President Biden’s infrastructure bill, including first-generation downpayment assistance, support for Fair Housing enforcement, and investment in the Housing Investment Fund. Advocates noted that Biden’s Build Back Better Act funds important resources needed to address the decline of affordability and accessibility of homeownership in underserved communities. The housing market needs substantial investment to help increase the supply of affordable housing, improve access to homeownership, and address the troubling homeownership gap for Black and Brown people.

HUD to tackle systemic racism and housing discrimination
Advocates joined together to support the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) decision to reinstate its Discriminatory Effects Standard, which ensures that housing practices that appear neutral in their design do not create or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion and other characteristics protected under the Fair Housing Act. During the Trump administration, HUD gutted this critical civil rights protection and made it nearly impossible to seek redress for fair housing violations that had discriminatory effects. HUD’s announcement today ensures that strong protections against discriminatory housing practices are clear and remain the law of the land.

Grant FHA-backed borrowers the full forbearance relief they are legally entitled to
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), coalition advocates urged HUD to give Federal Housing Administration-backed borrowers who start forbearance plans after July 1, 2021, access to a full 12 months of forbearance, in line with policies from the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). In doing so, HUD would rightfully recognize the continued economic turmoil from the global pandemic. HUD’s current decision unnecessarily limits forbearance for borrowers accessing plans after June 30, 2021, to only six months of relief instead of the standard 12 months pursuant to the CARES Act.

Climate change threatens vulnerable residents’ housing opportunities
Groups write to the Federal Housing Finance Agency with concerns that climate risk mitigation efforts could cause inadvertent harm to communities already vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

Expanding access to homeownership for consumers with limited English proficiency
One in five U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home, yet the financial services market still caters primarily to fluent English speakers. In a letter to Congress, coalition members wrote in support of the LEP Data Acquisition in Mortgage Lending Act and the bill to promote language access in mortgage servicing. LEP borrowers face many challenges that impede their full participation in the consumer marketplace, including, specifically, their ability to obtain and preserve ownership of a home. Together, these bills will make important strides in improving access to the mortgage market and awareness of the availability of assistance for homeowners who are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments, which is especially critical during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Choice of retirement plan disclosure notice still important for workers and retirees
Consumer Action joined coalition members in urging the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Department of Labor to address the severe shortcomings in the Department’s recently adopted “Notice-and-Access” rule. Until the changes last May, the default had been to deliver retirement plan disclosures on paper, sent through the mail. Under the new rule, the retirement plan merely sends an email or text message to a consumer letting them know that a disclosure is available on a website. The new rule’s default makes no provision for the sizeable proportion of individuals who still don’t have access to computers or internet service and makes it much harder for ordinary Americans to access the documents they need to plan for retirement.

The FTC and CFPB must do more to prevent mass homelessness during the pandemic
Over 11 million families are at risk of losing housing. Protection from evictions and foreclosures is greatly needed due to the ongoing economic crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic, including the loss of household income in the near and long term. Consumer Action joined advocates in urging the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to work together to prohibit unfair debt collections and ensure financial and regulatory agencies confirm industry standards regarding forbearance availability for homeowners. Without these additional protections, many will lose their homes and be forced to move at a time when COVID-19 levels are still extremely high and vaccination access for many is still months away. As a result, the financial impact of COVID would result in substantially greater risk of spreading illness.

Over 100 groups call on Federal Reserve to Strengthen CRA
More than 100 national and local civil rights, fair lending and consumer rights organizations have urged the Federal Reserve Board to strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a key anti-redlining and civil rights law. In detailed comments that addressed issues from access to credit, location of bank branches and investments in underserved communities, the groups laid out a plan for the Biden Administration to leverage CRA to ensure an equitable recovery from the ongoing economic, racial justice and public health crisis.

Immediate action needed to help keep families in their homes
As millions of Americans face continued hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to urge the Bureau to keep individuals and families in their homes. Advocates recommended specific steps the Bureau can take to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, including homeowners without federally-backed mortgages. They asked that the CFPB focus on implementing quick policies during this current crisis, rather than embarking on a larger disaster-related rulemaking, leaving time to analyze best practices and measure how well the policies adopted during this crisis worked to save homes.

Allies urge CFPB Director not to weaken its enforcement arm
A coalition of more than 80 consumer and civil rights groups urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Director Kathy Kraninger to "abandon" her "October Surprise" proposed reorganization. Instead of strengthening the arm of the CFPB that holds predatory financial institutions accountable, the proposal would drastically weaken its authority, independence, and ultimately, effectiveness, leaving consumers vulnerable and defenseless during an already financially stressful time.

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