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In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 has probably received more media attention in the past two years than it garnered cumulatively over the previous 30 years. Numerous conservative pundits and commentators have blamed the CRA for the subprime crisis and the subsequent world-wide financial meltdown. Most social workers are probably unaware that the CRA is probably responsible for more investment, loans, and wealth creation in low and moderate income neighborhoods than any other single piece of federal legislation over the past 40 years. This paper highlights the following features about the CRA that social workers need to know: the CRA was created and passed only because of grassroots community organizing; the CRA has been directly or indirectly related to eight trillion dollars of investments, mortgage and small business loans in low income neighborhoods since 1977; community organizing has always been the primary enforcement mechanism of the CRA; contrary to widespread right-wing media accounts, the CRA was not responsible for the housing bubble and worldwide financial crisis in 2008. In this paper, we will articulate the veridical factors contributing to the financial collapse. Presently Congress is debating reforms for the financial sector and the way banking functions will be transacted in the future remains unclear. Regardless of the eventual restructuring of finance, moving forward, social workers should continue to advocate for legislation that will ensure housing for low and moderate income people.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Community Practice. Copyright © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

The authors' post-print (post peer-reviewed) manuscript is posted here with the permission of the authors.