Newswire: Biden’s first 100-day challenge: transitioning to a more inclusive economy 

By Charlene Crowell

Biden and Harris

( – The tumultuous 2020 presidential election triggered a record number of participating voters. Never before had so many people cast their preferences. And similarly, together substantiated how divided the nation is.
For Black America, the financial ravages of the year have brought deeper and more devastating circumstances to bear. Disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities have been denied the opportunity to comfort loved ones hospitalized, or even to collectively mourn the loss of family and friends. The continuing pandemic has also depleted the financial resources of those who lack sufficient resources to cover financial emergencies. When these same economically- disadvantaged consumers also suffer job losses, lay-offs and reduced working hours, mounting household debts are inevitable.
“We are in the midst of a pandemic caused by an abject failure of federal leadership that has left tens of millions unemployed, the economy in collapse, nearly half of the nation’s Black small businesses decimated, 40 million Americans at risk of foreclosure and eviction, and Black homeownership at levels not seen since the 1960, when racial discrimination in housing was legal,” noted the National Urban League’s President and CEO, Marc Morial.
In the throes of these challenges, the President-Elect has yet to receive cooperation in our hallmarked peaceful transition of power. He must instead draw upon the expertise and insights of those proficient in key areas of concern to construct a myriad of remedies needed now more than ever.
While pundits focus on the first 100 days of the next Administration, people from all walks of life hope in earnest for an inclusive economic recovery, one that includes communities long-marginalized. And lest anyone purport that communities of color are overly-sensitive, we need only remind naysayers of how the housing recovery from the Great Recession left behind the very people who were harmed the most: Black and Latino communities.
If this recovery is to be different, the calls for action must be heeded. Now is the time to stand up and speak out not just for what we want, but for what we also deserve.
A straightforward first step is for President-Elect Biden to move swiftly to restore fair housing rules that were gutted by President Trump’s Administration.
In 2015, President Obama’s Administration issued the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, which provided long-overdue guidance for local governments and others to implement a key mandate of the same name in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This key development in civil rights law’s AFFH mandate required active steps to end segregation, promote integration, and ensure all neighborhoods are well-resourced. It also assured that local residents would have access to housing opportunities.
Under President Trump. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, repealed the regulation and replaced it with a rule that was described as “weak and toothless” by Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
Similarly, the outgoing leadership at HUD promulgated an administrative rule that would defang the “disparate impact” standard, a critical legal tool to uncover and stop harmful mortgage discrimination. Nikitra Bailey, Executive Vice President with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) argued that “[I]t is unfathomable that HUD would gut one of the primary anti-discrimination instruments as the nation reckons with systemic racism.”
Even the collection of data on mortgage discrimination has been cut. These rollbacks and others are described in a report entitled, Turning Back the Clock: How the Trump Administration Has Undermined 50 Years of Fair Housing Progress released by Ohio’s Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Ranking Member on the U.S. Banking Committee.
At the same time, we know that real progress must be pursued beyond familiar and often ineffective remedies. Preserving the status quo will never provide help that is desperately needed.
Toward this end, CRL has proposed a 100-day agenda for the incoming Administration and the new Congress to address financial justice in all of its forms.
To expand fair, inclusive, and sustainable homeownership, CRL calls for several actions including:
• Targeted reparations in a homeownership program that includes direct down payment grants for low-wealth, first-time Black and Brown homebuyers as well as others disadvantaged by exclusionary federal homeownership policies; and
• Eliminating reliance on credit-scoring systems that entrench historic discrimination.
Recognizing that the broken higher education financing system also perpetuates the racial wealth gap, CRL suggests a range of reforms to immediately relieve the crushing burden of student debt, including broad-based cancellation.
“Too often, predatory financial services and products prevent families and small businesses from accessing opportunities, and instead impede our ability to reduce poverty and close the racial wealth gap”, states a new CRL policy brief that includes a combination of administrative and legislative actions.
Even before the dual crises of the pandemic and a faltering economy, U.S. household debt was on the rise, reaching $14 trillion. CRL’s policy recommendations include an end to the collection of so-called “zombie debt”, bills that are too old to be legally collected.
Another practice of heightened concern is the increased use of bank overdraft fees. These fees harm consumers with low or no cushions in their bank accounts. These are the same consumers who can least afford added fees in already tight budgets. CRL proposes to halt these regressive fees until the economy has recovered. Once achieved, CRL recommends a permanent limit to the number of fees that can be charged monthly and annually.
One action the federal government did take in the COVID-19 crisis was to fund small businesses threatened with closure. However, Black small businesses and entrepreneurs were largely shut out of tis aid. A key remedy for CRL is to launch a focused effort to meaningfully assist them.
The achievements of Black businesses are often overlooked in analyses of America’s economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, America’s estimated 2 million Black businesses are about 10 percent of all U.S. businesses and about 30 percent of all minority-owned businesses.  Collectively, Black businesses have an annual payroll of $23.9 billion and employ 920,000 people.
As impressive as these numbers are, several reports, including a recent one by Citi Global Perspective and Solutions, show that if Black businesses had greater access to affordable credit, this key sector of the economy would grow significantly and boost the nation’s economy as well.
Black businesses are more often created with their own personal resources than are white start-ups. Instead of business loans, Black entrepreneurs are more likely to use personal and business credit cards that can carry higher interest rates and fees. Additionally, Black-owned businesses are the least likely to receive approval for loans from large banks, or from investors.
The financial playing field could better serve Black and other businesses of color with more robust capital support and technical assistance, according to CRL. A direct grant program tailored to the specialized needs off businesses of color, as well as increased lending capacity at minority deposit institutions and community development financial institutions would be key to accessing affordable credit when needed.
Nor is CRL alone in calling for change that brings genuine relief to Black America. Civil rights groups like the National Fair Housing Alliance and the National Urban League have also identified action plans that will deliver a better day. If some of these proposals seem familiar to readers, it is because our fight for freedom, equality and the American Dream have remained a quest instead of an achievement.
On April 16, 1963 – 57 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his immortal, Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In part, he wrote, “[W]hen you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outward resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’ – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
As a people, let’s call upon a new Administration to end our long-suffering wait.

Charlene Crowell is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at

Newswire: Fair housing still a distant journey for Black America

       By Charlene Crowell, Center for Responsible Learning
Map of African-American homeownership in the U. S.

( – Public pressure to restore a key HUD rule has united civil rights, public and private sector stakeholders in a swelling and nearly daily drumbeat of concern calling for fair housing to be supported and HUD’s replacement rule be rescinded.

On July 23 the rule known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) HUD Secretary Ben Carson termed the rule as “a ruse for social engineering under the guise of desegregation”.

“The worst thing we can do in a major health pandemic is increase housing instability, homelessness, and overcrowding — which is what will happen if the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision is significantly weakened,” noted Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Taking away strong fair housing tools makes all of our communities less safe and increases housing instability. We have learned that lesson and we should not repeat that mistake. We will not allow Trump to take away tools to fight discrimination or make our neighborhoods less safe.”

“The government helped create entrenched, pernicious residential segregation and has an obligation to undo it,” said Nikitra Bailey, an Executive Vice President with the Center for Responsible Lending. “By rejecting the Fair Housing Act’s mission to dismantle segregation and the inequity it created, this Administration is eschewing its responsibility and will be on the wrong side of history.”

Initially promulgated under the Obama Administration AFFH required local jurisdictions receiving HUD funds to take meaningful actions to halt decades of discriminatory policies and practices that perpetuated racially segregated communities. Under the Trump Administration the rule was suspended and then replaced by a new one termed, Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice. Under the new rule HUD grantees are no longer required to actively pursue local plans to eliminate segregated housing.

Across the nation, civil rights and housing advocates agree that historical segregation is largely responsible for the nagging inequity that Black America still confronts today.

Additionally, it is also particularly noteworthy that HUD finalized its new rule without providing an opportunity for public comment – a serious departure from the regular federal rulemaking process.

For the nation’s estimated 70 largest and oldest public housing authorities that together serve more than one million low-income households who live in federally-assisted housing, the rule is an affront to fair housing advocates across the country.

In an August 3 letter to HUD’s Carson, The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (“CLPHA”) and Reno & Cavanaugh, PLLC wrote in part, “[R]ather than enforce an act of Congress, which they are obligated to do, HUD and the Administration endeavor to demonstrate Congressional support for the New AFFH Rule simply by relying on statements by individual members of Congress that “every community should be free to zone its neighborhoods and compete for new residents according to its distinct values.”

“As HUD is fully aware,” CLPHA continued, “phrases like “distinct values” have historically been used to justify segregation, discrimination, and overt suppression of the economic advancement of minority communities and communities of color. As HUD is also fully aware, public housing was often intentionally developed in segregated neighborhoods of high poverty and historically has been chronically underfunded because of these same “distinct values.”

Days earlier on July 27, three U.S. House leaders: Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee; Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary; and Congressman William. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance issued a joint statement.

“The Fair Housing Act makes housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability illegal,” wrote the lawmakers. “The law includes a requirement that recipients of federal housing funding and the agencies of the federal government must “affirmatively further fair housing,” meaning that they must administer funds and programs in ways that actively undo and do not perpetuate patterns of historic residential segregation and systemic disinvestment…This senseless and misguided decision to roll back that important progress comes as the President peddles racist rhetoric that is reminiscent of the fearmongering tactics of those who supported racial segregation prior to the Fair Housing Act.”

The House Members also announced in their statement, that legislation to reinstate the AFFH rule would be introduced.

Also adding its voice and collective influence to preserve fair housing is the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the nation’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
According to its President, Vince Malta, “NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities. With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color reminding us of the costs of the failure to address barriers to housing opportunity, NAR remains committed to ensuring no American is unfairly denied this fundamental right in the future.”

NAR’s Malta makes a timely point. With federal stimulus funds expired, not only has $600 weekly unemployment aid ended; but one in five of the 110 million renters face the looming prospect of eviction by the end of September, according to an Aspen Institute research report entitled Strong Foundations: Financial Security Starts with Affordable, Stable Housing. The report also found that nearly all very low-income renters, half or more of their monthly income is spent on housing.

This housing unaffordability finding is also held by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition that measures affordable housing as no more than 30% of monthly income. In its 2020 report, however, America’s housing affordability challenges were widespread even before the pandemic:

11 million extremely low-income households are priced out of local market rate apartments;
Minimum wage employees need to work an average of 79 hours – just shy of two full weeks – to afford a one-bedroom apartment. That same minimum wage worker would need to work 97 hours to afford a two-bedroom dwelling; and
A full-time employee needs an hourly wage of $19.56 to afford a one-bedroom apartment, or $23.96 an hour to afford a two-bedroom unit.

According to an early July U.S. Census Bureau survey nearly 43.4 million Americans – or 25.3% of the adult population – either missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or have little to no confidence that they can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.

These and other societal ills were the focus of a recent op-ed authored by 27 U.S. mayors representing 13 states. Published by the Washington Post, mayors from large cities like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston and Philadelphia joined with mid-sized cities including Durham (NC), Eugene (OR), Lansing (MI), and Ithaca (NY), made a public plea for housing.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, housing has always been the primary contributor to this country’s massive racial wealth gap,” wrote the mayors. “Systemic racism created a society where white households have 10 times the wealth of Black households. We are at risk of history repeating itself if federal COVID -19 relief measures primarily benefit white households…After decades of disinvestment and denial, now is the time for Congress to show its commitment to housing programs that support the stability and mobility of people of color.”

How much longer must Black America and other people of color wait for fair housing?