Cra and Financial Crisis

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Real-life examples2
Empirical cycle2
Other concepts of Babbie, Gravetter and Forzano applied2


The burst of the United States housing market bubble initiated the worldwide financial crisis. Amongst all housing regulations, the community reinvestment act (CRA) may be the most significant. The act passed in 1977 to improve low-income households’ housing opportunities. As such, the act raised the incentives for banks to provide mortgages to low-income households (FFIEC, n.d.). Over time, several political administrations, like the George H.W. Bush-, Clinton- and George W. Bush-administration, changed the original act, adapting to new challenges in the housing market (Braunstein, 2008). However, as time passed, the act became less important for banks, as the products, mortgages, became more profitable. As a result, more and more financial institutions started offering mortgages to low-income classes. These so called subprime mortgages are often associated with high risks (Aalbers, 2009). This point of view can be concluded with the hypothesis that the CRA will be seen as a cause of the financial crisis.

Firstly, the different opinions and their respective arguments with regard to the hypothesis are illustrated. Secondly, an explanation is given on how these examples fit in the empirical cycle. Thirdly, three other concepts of Babbie, Gravetter and Forzano are applied to the examples. Finally, a conclusion is drawn with respect to the examples.

Real-life examples

As a result of the CRA, banks were rated, based on the number of loans given out to low-income households. A bad rating could have had severe consequences for a bank. The fact that the FED did not allow a Hartford, Connecticut bank to acquire a New Hampshire bank on CRA grounds demonstrates this. In order to keep their CRA ratings high, banks had to provide low-income classes with loans. In essence it can be said that the CRA ratings raised the banks’ incentives to provide low-income households with loans (Carney, 2009a). It can clearly be seen that the enforcement of the CRA over time led to a relaxation of lending standards and consequentially to more risk-taking in the banking sector in the form of mortgages. These high-risk mortgages are now seen as part of the problem. Thus, Carney (2009b) concludes, the CRA is part of the cause of the financial crisis. Carney agrees with the hypothesis.

Defendants of the CRA simply claim that an act passed in 1977 cannot lead to the creation of a housing bubble in the early 21st century. Nevertheless, the CRA was not a static piece of legislation. The act evolved over the years, as it was mentioned earlier in the introduction. To be more specific, it was more and more enforced over the years. As a conclusion it can be said that the enforcement of the CRA might have been crucial in creating the housing bubble. Therefore the act could have created a housing bubble in the early 21st century (Carney, 2009a).

However, Aalbers (2009) also argues in favor of the CRA and tries to falsify the hypothesis. He states that the majority of subprime loans in 2006 were provided by non-bank lenders. These non-bank lenders, however, were not subject to CRA regulations and thus were not obliged to provide affordable loans to low-income classes. The only logical conclusion that can be drawn from this information is that these loans to low-income classes were an attractive investment. Thus, Aalbers says, the CRA was not the cause of the high-risk mortgages providence to low-income households by banks. By clearly, Aalbers would reject the hypothesis that the CRA was a cause of the financial bubble.

Nonetheless, his argumentation has to be questioned. In 1977 most of the loans and mortgages were provided by banks as well as savings and loan associations. The extra mortgages that were provided as a result of the CRA probably increased the...
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