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Economy

D.C. Holds Housing Forum for Seniors, Faith Community

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) recently held its first Elder Housing Resource Forum.

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Attendees listen during a forum for senior citizens sponsored by the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking at the Hattie Holmes Wellness Center in northwest D.C. on Feb. 7. (Courtesy of DISB)

By WI Web Staff

The D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) recently held its first Elder Housing Resource Forum to provide seniors and the faith community with vital information about and access to government and nonprofit resources.

Approximately 12 percent, or 84,000, of the city’s 700,000 residents are 65 or older.

“In keeping with Mayor [Muriel] Bowser’s vision for an age-friendly D.C., the Elder Housing Resource Forum was developed to address housing topics that are important to seniors and connect seniors to vital resources,” said DISB Commissioner Stephen Taylor. “These topics include the HomeSaver Program, property tax services, emergency and affordable housing, and foreclosure mitigation.”

The forum, which more specifically provided more than 150 faith community leaders and seniors with resources to assist seniors age safely, comfortably and affordably in their homes and communities, was held in partnership with the Clergy for Community Wealth Preservation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Support for the Feb. 7 event, held in Ward 4 at the Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center, was provided also provided by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate, the DC Office on Aging, AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly, the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development, the D.C. Housing Finance Agency, Housing Counseling Services, Inc. and the United Planning Organization.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

Community

MLK Freedom Center Receives State Funding

OAKLAND POST — The California statewide Youth And Family Civic En­gagement Initiative, a joint program of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland, has received a three-year al­location in the California State budget, approved by both houses of the California Leg­islature and Governor Gavin Newsom.

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Participants in the statewide Youth and Civic Engagement Initiative learn how to organize community and encourage voter engagement. Photo courtesy of MLK Freedom Center.
By The Oakland Post

The California statewide Youth And Family Civic En­gagement Initiative, a joint program of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland, has received a three-year al­location in the California State budget, approved by both houses of the California Leg­islature and Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Initiative and its pro­grams are designed to in­crease civic engagement, par­ticipation and civics education among youth, their families and communities in 12 Califor­nia counties–Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los An­geles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Tulare and Yolo. The organizations will receive $2 million per year over three years.

The Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative increases understanding of govern­ment and civic institutions and increases civic participation among low-income, disenfran­chised youth and their families in targeted regions throughout the state for the purpose of re­ducing racial and socio-eco­nomic disparities.

“We are grateful that the leg­islature and the Governor have made it possible to expand the Dolores Huerta Founda­tion and Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center’s Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative to reach more under­served youth throughout Cali­fornia, with a focus on youth engagement, youth empower­ment and leadership develop­ment using the philosophies of active non-violent movement building,” said Dolores Huerta. “The leadership training that the youth receive will be mag­nified tenfold as the youth take the lessons learned to address and resolve the many issues that they are confronted with in their respective communities”. Said Dr. Roy D.

Wilson, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, “Thousands of young people throughout the state are searching for path­ways that will lead them into meaningful public service.

They know they have some­thing to learn, and they know they have much to contribute. The Initiative provides the skills and knowledge by which young people can navigate themselves onto the road of civic engagement where they can play an important role in developing programs of social uplift, and a stronger democ­racy.”

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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#NNPA BlackPress

CFPB turns its back on fair lending enforcement and reporting

NNPA NEWSWIRE — More than 50 years ago, this nation enacted legal guarantees that fair housing would be available to all Americans. Despite this federal assurance, however, a disturbing and ongoing stream of reports and lawsuits remind us that we are still on an aspirational journey. Aggressive enforcement of fair housing and other anti-discriminatory laws are supposed to bring punishments for violators, and restitution for those harmed.

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This June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.
This June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.

By Charlene Crowell, Deputy Communications Director with the Center for Responsible Lending and NNPA Newswire Contributor

More than 50 years ago, this nation enacted legal guarantees that fair housing would be available to all Americans. Despite this federal assurance, however, a disturbing and ongoing stream of reports and lawsuits remind us that we are still on an aspirational journey. Aggressive enforcement of fair housing and other anti-discriminatory laws are supposed to bring punishments for violators, and restitution for those harmed.

But as with so many justice issues –either financial or criminal, what really happens in life seems a world away from the African American experience.

Since its inception, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) mandate was to protect consumers from discriminatory lending as well as to ensure fair access to credit. In addition to violations of the Fair Housing Act, CFPB also has the authority to refer potential violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) to the Justice Department.

Despite these and other enforcement options, CFPB’s most recent fair lending report to Congress acknowledged a full year without any fair lending enforcement actions.

Charlene Crowell is the deputy communications director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org

This June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.

“The Bureau must refer to the Justice Department (DOJ) a matter when it has reason to believe that a creditor has engaged in a pattern or practice of lending discrimination in violation of ECOA,” acknowledged the report. “In 2018, the Bureau did not refer any ECOA violations to the Justice Department…In 2018, the Bureau opened and continued a number of fair-lending-related investigations, however, it did not bring fair lending-related enforcement actions”, the June 2019 report continued.

While CFPB turned away from fair lending, several 2018 lawsuits were filed mostly by private and nonprofit advocates. Their collective actions realized large settlements, fair lending reports and continued documentation of illegal breaches.

For example, nearly a year ago, New York’s Suffolk County Federal Credit Union signed a $1 billion settlement rather than go to trial on discriminatory charges. The settlement resolved a case filed two years earlier, in 2016 that alleged Black and Latino consumers were denied mortgage approvals at a higher rate than that of the credit union’s white customers.

Later that same year, in a regulatory examination of Citigroup, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) found that consumers of color were not receiving the same mortgage rate discounts reserved for its large-deposit customers. That case was referred to the Justice Department.

Another 2018 discriminatory case involved lawsuits with several major banks on behalf of consumers in two Maryland counties, Montgomery and Price George. The case alleged that as early as the mid- 2000s, consumers of color were steered into higher-cost, non-prime mortgages – a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Some might contend that this sample summary might not be fair to CFPB and its mission.

To such questioning minds, I would add that this June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.

Every year, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) report makes public details of the past year’s mortgage market. It is the only national report that includes the race and ethnicity of mortgage applicants, types of loan approvals as well as denials. Most importantly, the actual behavior of lenders – both banks and nonbanks record the total number of loans involved.

By exempting so many lenders, the highly anticipated report would lose valuable clarity and irrefutable data.

Among the organizations signing these comments were: NAACP, The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Center for Responsible Lending.

“A large loss of HMDA reporting will create a distorted view of lending trends in these underserved areas and will make it more difficult for stakeholders to determine if revitalization efforts are succeeding,” wrote the housing advocates. “The overall impact of raising the threshold will be to frustrate HMDA’s purposes of determining whether credit needs are being met and whether public investment has succeeded in rejuvenating the housing and lending markets in struggling neighborhoods.”

The coalition comments also include a litany of CFPB actions that have occurred since 2017, all with anti-consumer effects:

  • Failure to issue any violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act;
  • Declared its intent to ignore the Disparate Impact standard, a long-standing legal test that holds the effects of discrimination, not the intent are legal violations;
  • Publicly praised the repeal of anti-discrimination auto lending guidance;
  • Sided with payday lenders in their challenge of the Bureau’s payday rule promulgated under the previous director;
  • Stripped the Bureau’s fair lending office of its supervisory and enforcement powers; and
  • Relegated the development of regulation on fair lending for minority and women-owned businesses to a low-level concern.

In many ways, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has failed to live up to its name and reneged on its mission.

“This lack of enforcement demonstrates our journey towards fair lending still has miles to travel,” said Melissa Stegman, a CRL Senior Policy Counsel. “CFPB was created to protect consumers without exception.”

Charlene Crowell is the deputy communications director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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Defender News Network

With conflicting budget estimates, will Texas teachers get the pay raises they anticipated?

DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — When state lawmakers passed their landmark $11.6 billion school finance law in late May, school employees were eager to see how mandatory raises would affect their paychecks. A month later, they’re scratching their heads, struggling to decipher complicated changes and conflicting financial estimates that might not net teachers as much money as they expected.

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Photo by: Nappy | Pexels.com

By Defender News Service

When state lawmakers passed their landmark $11.6 billion school finance law in late May, school employees were eager to see how mandatory raises would affect their paychecks.

A month later, they’re scratching their heads, struggling to decipher complicated changes and conflicting financial estimates that might not net teachers as much money as they expected.

Before lawmakers voted nearly unanimously to approve House Bill 3, which drastically overhauled Texas’ outdated school funding system, they received estimates from the state on how much additional money each of their school districts would likely receive over the next two years. But the estimates came with a warning: They could change significantly once the calculations were performed using local data.

Ahead of the upcoming school year, districts are now redoing those calculations themselves — and some are coming up short. That could pose a problem for teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians, since under HB 3, school districts are supposed to use a portion of the new money on those employees’ raises and benefits. (School boards must approve their budgets by either a June 30 or an Aug. 31 deadline.)

Georgetown ISD, for example, is projecting $5.9 million in new money in the upcoming school year, much less than the $10.3 million state estimate. And it will shell out about $9 million in recapture payments, which the state takes from wealthier districts to subsidize poorer ones — not the $3.5 million the state estimated in May.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, a large suburban district in the Houston area, should’ve expected $30 million more in the upcoming school year, according to the state estimates. But school board members approved a budget in late June that projected just $14 million more, according to Karen Smith, the district’s chief financial officer.

To remain competitive as employers, both districts are going beyond the state’s requirement to use 30% of the new money to increase salaries and benefits. Georgetown ISD is including $3,000 raises for teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses with more than five years of experience. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD approved a budget millions of dollars in the red that includes $25.4 million in raises for classroom teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses and $10.8 million in raises for all other employees.

Teacher pay raises quickly became a bipartisan rallying cry during the 2019 legislative session that finished up in May. But instead of the statewide $5,000 raise many teachers advocated for from the get-go, lawmakers approved a set of guidelines for salary bumps that would end up leaving the dollar amounts largely up to district leaders.

There is not yet an official statewide summary on what compensation packages look like across school districts, but eventually districts will be required to report that information to the Legislature. Meanwhile, the state has been providing guidance on how to interpret the new law through videos and PowerPoint presentations.

Without an across-the-board pay raise mandate from the state, teachers and other school employees have been looking left and right at neighboring school districts to judge how they’re going to fare. Some report having heard nothing from their school districts so far this summer, as they anxiously monitor the news from across the state.

Sunnyvale ISD Superintendent Doug Williams found that the state’s calculation for how much more his tiny school district would receive was pretty accurate: just under $600,000. But school districts in the vicinity, which include large, urban Dallas ISD, are getting millions more, meaning they’ll be required to offer bigger raises.

To stay competitive, Sunnyvale ISD’s school board approved larger pay raises than required by law, ranging from $1,800 for beginning teachers to $2,700 for the most experienced. “We have been blessed to be able to attract and retain great teachers,” Williams said. “We just want to make sure we are able to continue.”

In some school districts, local teachers’ unions and associations are butting heads with administrators as they advocate for higher raises and larger employer contributions to health insurance. After adopting a budget with 5% raises, Laredo ISD’s officials told frustrated teachers they are waiting for more guidance from the state before they consider raising salaries further.

In Houston ISD, the teachers union successfully threatened a no-confidence vote against the superintendent if trustees didn’t pass a budget with pay raises by later this month, arguing the delay would make them less competitive for hiring. After a contentious meeting, the board ultimately approved a deficit budget containing raises of 3.5% to 8%, depending on school employees’ experience levels. The budget also increased the minimum wage for school employees by $2 an hour.

For third grade writing teacher Huyenchau Vu, who watched the Legislature’s initial proposal for $5,000 raises dissolve, a 3.5% raise means a boost of less than $2,000 a year and less than $100 per paycheck. “It goes back into paying for everything, not necessarily into a savings account,” said Vu, who just finished teaching summer school at Houston ISD and will start her third year teaching in August.

She and her colleagues have been taking notes about the higher starting salaries and raises for Houston-area districts such as Aldine ISD and Alief ISD, but not necessarily because they’re trying to jump ship. While Vu would appreciate more money, she is also worried about the sustainability of the Legislature’s funding increase and is glad Houston ISD appears to be more “realistic” in its budgeting decisions than its neighbors.

“They’re paying their teachers a lot more knowing it’s just over the next two years that we’re receiving money from the state of Texas to put into these teacher salaries,” she said. “After that, no one’s sure what’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared in the Defender News Network

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#NNPA BlackPress

Waters to Facebook: Today’s Hearing is Only the First Step in Our Oversight and Legislative Process

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Facebook has proposed backing Libra tokens with government currencies and government guaranteed securities, and holding them in a so-called Libra Reserve, to be governed by Facebook and its partners. Ownership of government assets on such a massive scale without proper oversight threatens to concentrate government influence in the hands of a few elites. Ultimately, if Facebook’s plans come to fruition, the company and its partners will wield immense economic power that could destabilize currencies and governments.”

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters has emerged as one of the strongest legislators, community organizers, and champions for women, children, seniors, veterans, people of color, and the poor. She was elected in November 2018 to her fifteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives where she proudly represents California’s diverse and dynamic 43rd Congressional District.

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, delivered the following opening statement at a full Committee hearing entitled, “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Cryptocurrency and Its Impact on Consumers, Investors, and the American Financial System.”

As Prepared for Delivery

Today we are here for a hearing on Facebook’s proposed digital currency, Libra, and digital wallet, Calibra, and their impacts on consumers, investors and the financial system. Our first witness is David Marcus, Calibra’s CEO. Following his testimony, a panel of experts will share their views on Facebook’s plans.

I have serious concerns with Facebook’s plans to create a digital currency and digital wallet and its efforts to enlist partners that expand its reach, like Mastercard, Paypal, Visa, Uber, Lyft, and Spotify. Facebook is apparently trying to create a new global financial system that is intended to rival the U.S. dollar. This venture is slated to be based in Switzerland, which has a history as a monetary haven for criminals and shady corporations. Facebook’s plans raise serious privacy, trading, national security, and monetary policy concerns, not only for Facebook’s over 2 billion users, who will have immediate access to these products, but also for consumers, investors and the global economy.

In addition, Facebook has proposed backing Libra tokens with government currencies and government guaranteed securities, and holding them in a so-called Libra Reserve, to be governed by Facebook and its partners. Ownership of government assets on such a massive scale without proper oversight threatens to concentrate government influence in the hands of a few elites. Ultimately, if Facebook’s plans come to fruition, the company and its partners will wield immense economic power that could destabilize currencies and governments.

Facebook’s proposed entry into financial services is all the more troubling because it has already harmed vast numbers of people on a scale similar to Wells Fargo, and demonstrated a pattern of failing to keep consumer data private on a scale similar to Equifax. Facebook remains under a 2011 consent order from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceiving consumers and failing to keep consumer data private. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook provided 50 million users’ private data to a political consulting firm, the company will reportedly pay a record $5 billion fine to the FTC for data privacy failures. In addition, Facebook has allegedly: insecurely stored user passwords dating back to 2012; paid unsuspecting teenagers to download spyware; experienced a hack of nearly 50 million accounts; and experienced a software bug that granted third party access to 6.8 million users’ photos. It has also been sued by HUD and civil rights groups for violations of the Fair Housing Act in what amounts to modern day redlining. Facebook also allowed malicious Russian state actors to purchase and target ads in a campaign to influence the 2016 election.

I am also concerned about the lack of diversity in Facebook’s upper ranks, and fear that if these plans go forward, women and minorities and women- and minority-owned businesses may be excluded from participating fully.

In light of these and other concerns, my colleagues and I wrote to Facebook earlier this month to call on it to cease implementation of its plans until regulators and Congress can examine the issues associated with a large technology company developing a digital currency and take action. The Independent Community Bankers of America and others support this commonsense step.

Facebook’s plans also raise larger concerns about Big Tech’s expansion into financial services, as it appears to inappropriately mix commerce and banking activities. So, today we will discuss a draft bill, the Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act, which would prevent large platform utilities like Facebook from becoming financial institutions and block them from creating their own currencies.

Today’s hearing is only the first step in our oversight and legislative process. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

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Economy

New Report Ranks Milwaukee #72 Out of 100 Cities in Affordable Housing

MILWAUKEE COURIER — According to the RealtyHop Housing Affordability Index, when it comes to being able to afford a house, Milwaukee ranks 72 out of 100 cities in the U.S.—last month’s report ranked Milwaukee at 76. Every month, RealtyHop analyze their data alongside comprehensive U.S. Census data to find out if homeownership is affordable or accessible for the average family, according to their site.

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Harbor Districts Of Milwaukee (Photo By: mozhjeralena | Adobe)

By Nyesha Stone

According to the RealtyHop Housing Affordability Index, when it comes to being able to afford a house, Milwaukee ranks 72 out of 100 cities in the U.S.—last month’s report ranked Milwaukee at 76. Every month, RealtyHop analyze their data alongside comprehensive U.S. Census data to find out if homeownership is affordable or accessible for the average family, according to their site.

Los Angeles is at the top of the list of least affordable homes with a 1.44 percent increase in homeownership burden, according to the index. L.A.’s median price range for a home is $899,000, which means the average L.A. household would have to spend 91.4 percent of their yearly income to own a home.

Only about six hours away, Detroit is the most affordable city to own a home, according to the index. The index reported that a household in the city would only need to spend $302 a month to own a home, or 13 percent of their annual income.

Along with that data is the medium income of the 100 cities. Milwaukee’s median income is $38, 289.

And, Detroit’s medium income is significantly lower than that at $27,838.

According to the “American Dream” every American should have the opportunity to own their home.

With these statistics, do you think that’s a possibility.

Before you make that decision, look over the full report at https://www.realtyhop.com/blog/realtyhop-housing-affordability-index-july-2019/.

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Courier

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