March 12, 2014
an important question going forward concerns the role of duties to serve (DTS) — obligations on lending institutions to reach out to traditionally underserved communities and borrowers. Should there be DTS, and if so, who should have the responsibility to serve whom, with what, and how? (2)
These are, indeed, important questions as regulators chart a course between requiring safe underwriting by lenders and ensuring access to credit for communities that have historically had little access to sustainable credit. The authors distinguish fair lending from duties to serve, with the former being an obligation not to discriminate and the latter being an affirmative duty to address the “disparity of financial opportunity.” (2) The paper describes two main DTS regimes,the Community Reinvestment Act and the Fannie/Freddie housing goals, as well as their limitations.
The paper concludes that the “aftermath of the housing bubble presents an opportunity to rebuild DTS” and proposes a set of reforms. (29) I highlight the first two here:
- “DTS should apply universally to the entire primary market,” covering both depositories and non-depositories in order to avoid incentives to engage in regulatory arbitrage. (30)
- “DTS should apply equally for all secondary market entities,” not just the Fannies and Freddies of the world. (30)
This paper has a lot to offer thoughtful policymakers. As with everything to do with our massive housing finance system, however, the devil is in the details of any regulatory regime. Mandatory duties to serve must be drafted to so that they are consistent with safe underwriting practices. This paper starts a conversation about doing just that.| Permalink