The House Financial Services Committee held a remote hearing on March 10 titled “Justice for All: Achieving Racial Equity through Fair Access to Housing and Financial Services.” The hearing addressed the need to address systemic racism and inequalities in our housing and financial services system. Witnesses included Paulina Gonzalez-Brito, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition; Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change; Nikitra Bailey, executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending; John Yang, president and executive director of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice; and Ian Rowe, president and co-founder of Vertex Partnership Academies.
The witnesses offered testimony and answered questions about barriers and biases faced by people of color in accessing capital credit and financial services and access to fair housing and homeownership. The panel also discussed the need for diversity in executive ranks and boards of lending institutions, financial services, and America’s top companies.
In Rashad Johnson's opening testimony, he recommended that Congress adopt a racially just policymaking approach when evaluating and determining which laws and regulations to enact, implement, or revoke, stating:
“[A] component need for racially just policymaking is a strong commitment to enforcement. The inclusion of civil rights protections in many of our financial services laws are of little consequence if federal regulators do not have the tools and resources to hold violators accountable. Having nondiscrimination laws in lending on the books is meaningless when there’s no one to stop banks from engaging in modern day redlining to deny Black people homeownership.”
When asked about the what the House Financial Services Committee should consider as key elements of a next COVID relief package to address systemic racism and inequities in the national housing and financial system, Nikitra Bailey replied, “We need to see this targeted down payment assistance program…[to] help first-generation homebuyers get into the marketplace, which will help them build long term and sustainable wealth.” She also noted the need to fully enforce our nation’s fair lending laws.
Paulina Gonzalez-Brito added, “[W]e need to be able to remove barriers – and that there is a real responsibility for the financial systems to remove those barriers rather than just a personal responsibility to overcome those barriers.” She continued, “[T]his committee really has a responsibility to think about things like enforcement…and disparate impact.” She noted that the CFPB has been “gutted” and needs to be returned to its full strength so that it can enforce fair lending laws.
In the hearing, Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15) emphasized the need for expanding the supply of affordable housing and resources to address homelessness: “For me, the simple solution to homelessness is affordable housing. More affordable housing units would mean less homelessness. More housing vouchers would mean less homelessness."
Watch the full hearing and read witness testimonies and related legislation at: http://bit.ly/3tdRIGD