HUD Draws Fire for Initiatives That Seek to Enforce Bias Laws
Cummins, Claudia, American Banker
WASHINGTON -- The Department of Housing and Urban Development's growing role in bank regulatory issues has generated a chorus of complaints from some lenders, lawmakers, and even bank regulators.
At a time when the Clinton administration is preaching regulatory consolidation andpromising toease the red tape burdening the banking industry, HUD is launching a number of initiatives that will only add to it, some have complained.
What is mire, critics argue, the department needs to straighten out its existing programs -- and enforce the rules for the nondepository institutions it regulates --before moving into a well-regulated arena.
"HUD has no expertise in bank regulation and supervision," said Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America. "The developing heavy-handed approach is promoting a lose-lkose situation to the detriment of low- and moderate-income borrowers."
Under HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and his fair-housing deputy, Robert Achtenberg, the department has annunced its intention to dramatically beef up enforcement ofanti-bias laws.
The department played a large role in the regulatory agencies' joint policy statement on discrimination and has begun asking lenders to voluntarily commit to ambitious minority-lending programs, including specific lending targets.
IT has also set up a unit to focus on lending bias; the unit is expected to write another set of regulations for banks on the issue.
Letter Details Concerns
These and other programs have set a growing number of lawmakers andindustry leaders complaining about HUD's expanded agenda. Recenty, Rep. Tom Ridge, R-Pa., sent a letter detailing these concerns to Rep. James Leach of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Huse Banking Committee.
"An agency that struggles today to correct its own housing problems is now ... set on an ambitious agenda that appears to include such areas as insured depository lending and small business lending," he wrote.
"I submit that no one today in the executive branch or in a congressional committee is looking at the broader implications of this strategic HUD direction. …