To The Pointwith Boris Bozic
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Article written by Boris Bozic on the 06 Nov 2012 in Mortgage

“The question on the mortgage application asked “Are you Caucasian, African American, Latino, Asian, Native American or Other?”  My initial reaction was shock, but then it dawned on me why I was being asked this question… Now there’s a recipe for responsible lending.”


My blog last Tuesday,Honouring a Canadian Hero, referenced the failed Presidency of Jimmy Carter.  As stated, I do not believe history will be kind to Jimmy Carter and his legacy and defining moment will forever be the American Embassy hostage crisis in Iran.  The final act of humiliation for Carter was when the Iranians only agreed to release the hostages after Ronald Regan’s inauguration.  Regan negotiated a deal for oil with the Iranians, and he was responsible for the hostages being released.  I think it would be a challenge, even for President Carter’s most ardent supporters, to make a case that he was an effective Commander and Chief.  What about as a legislator?  Once piece of legislation the President Carter signed into law was what I believe was the genesis of the mortgage meltdown.

In 1977, President Carter signed into law the Community Reinvestment Act.  The law was designed to force banks to meet the needs of borrowers in all communities, with a focus on moderate and low-income neighbourhoods.  The belief at that time was that the banks were discriminating against moderate and low-income neighbourhoods.  To remedy this, Crater and Congress passed a law requiring banks to ensure that moderate and low-income borrowers (in those days was code for “non-qualified”) would be able to get a mortgage.  The new law armed regulators with the authority to block bank mergers and expansion if they were deemed to be non-compliant.  The Community Reinvestment Act stated banks were not required to make high risk loans, however, the penalty for not doing so could impede a bank’s ability to grow and create value for its shareholders; dilemma, dilemma.

 The truth is that after many years of the law being enacted, regulators exercised caution when disciplining banks for non-compliance of the Community Reinvestment Act.  But that all changed when William Jefferson Clinton became President.  An amendment to the Act was made requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government agencies, to securitize mortgages for those borrowers who were moderate or low-income borrowers.  Also, the regulators were instructed to enforce the law.  No more ambivalence, no more looking the other the other way.  Upon audit if a bank was found to be non-compliant with the Community Reinvestment Act, the banks’ ability to grow would be impeded by the government, period.  Oh, but it got even better.  Social and community groups were encouraged to file complaints if they believed a bank was not in compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act.  It got to the point where some banks were paying off – pardon me – making significant dollar contributions to community groups to not file a complaint.  These community groups gladly accepted the “donations” from the banks with the understanding that banks still had to fund “X” dollars in mortgages in moderate and low-income communities.  Under Clinton, the banks had to find ways to do non-qualified loans but now they could securitize these loans and get if off their balance sheet.  Now there’s a recipe for responsible lending.

 I got a firsthand look at the folly of this Act.  For a short period of time I had a mortgage in the U.S.  I will never forget one of the questions on the mortgage application.  The question was, “Are you Caucasian, African American, Latino, Asian, Native American or Other?”  My initial reaction was shock, but then it dawned on me why I was being asked this question.  The criteria to qualify would depend on how I answered that question. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires lenders to collect this data to ensure equal lending practices, and the Community Reinvestment Act ensures that those who would not normally qualify for a mortgage, do.  Can you imagine having to ask that question here in Canada?  Now, is it any wonder that we weathered the meltdown so much better than our neighbours to the South?  Lending in Canada is not based on racial quota, it’s based on qualifying.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the mortgage meltdown was the result of irresponsible behaviour that boarded on criminal by some.  However, if fingers are going to be pointed at those responsible for the mortgage meltdown then historical perspective is required.  The Community Reinvestment Act provided the kindling, newspaper, butane and matches; Wall Street set it ablaze.

Tonight Americans decide who their next President will be.  I’m struck by the parallels between the Carter and Obama era.  Both had no answer for a failing economy.  During both administrations the American psyche was and currently is extremely fragile.  Under both administrations the future brought little hope. Both administrations had to deal with an embassy crisis.  Both blamed their predecessors for the state the economy at re-election.  It didn’t work for Carter and tonight we will learn if it worked for Obama. 

Until next time,


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