Mark Willis

Mark A. Willis is a visiting scholar at the Ford Foundation. He previously headed community-development banking at JPMorgan Chase.

Recent Articles

Community Reinvestment: The Broader Agenda

CRA has created a cadre of community-friendly bankers. It's time to bring reinvestment policy into the 21st century.

The world of banking and of community development is very different than it was in 1977 when Congress enacted the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Thirty-two years ago--with cities still in an urban crisis of broad economic decline and with civil-rights legislation only a dozen years old--CRA laid out an affirmative obligation for banks to expand access to credit in local service areas for "underserved" communities. Under pressure from both activists and regulators, banks significantly increased their investments in neighborhoods formerly written off, and bankers commenced constructive dialogues with community groups. In these terms, CRA has been a success. Today, however, the regulatory tools of CRA are a poor fit with the machinery of the new world of mega-banks and mortgage finance that evolved since the 1990s, let alone the wreckage of the industry after the crash. The core CRA concept of a bank's local service area hardly fits a Bank of America or a Wells Fargo. The three...