The economic crisis and community development finance: an industry assessment
For thirty years, the community development finance industry—banks, credit unions, loan funds, community development corporations, venture funds, microfinance institutions—has quietly provided responsible, well-designed and well priced credit to lower-income people and communities. These entities have provided this credit with the support of the federal government, through the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, the Low Income Housing and New Markets Tax Credits, the Small Business Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and various housing and facilities development programs. The industry has also been supported in its efforts by mainstream institutions such as banks and insurance companies, most frequently motivated by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) or by concern that CRA-like obligations would be imposed. Philanthropic foundations and supporters and state and local governments have also played their parts. The result: a community development finance industry that has survived and even prospered during recessions and political downdrafts. But the field, and the communities, businesses, and individuals it serves, are hurting now, and fearing bigger hurt. This paper examines this situation and focuses attention on what needs to be done.
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