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Auto loan delinquencies climbed to $9 billion in 2018

NNPA NEWSWIRE — … in April of last year, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to nullify the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) auto finance guidance that held auto lenders responsible for discriminatory lending practices prohibited under the Equal Credit Protection Act. This distorted use of the Congressional Review Act, sometimes known as another CRA, was never intended to overturn long-standing agency practices.

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By Charlene Crowell, NNPA Newswire Contributor

In recent months, many economists and lawmakers have frequently touted how the nation’s economy is performing really well. Often citing historically low unemployment rates, I’ve always felt that such pronouncements failed to consider the untold millions of Americans who are eking out a living on low or no raises, or others who work multiple jobs trying to piece together a living for their families.

But new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, offers hard evidence that a key sector of the economy is showing signs of distress: auto loans. At the end of 2018, 7 million consumers were three months behind on their car payments, according to the Fed’s Liberty Street Economics.

Addressing its finding of multi-million auto loan delinquencies, the Fed wrote, “That is more than a million more troubled borrowers than there had been at the end of 2010 when the overall delinquency rates were at their worst, since auto loans are now more prevalent.”

I suspect that many consumers want to keep a car available just as much as a roof over their heads. Reliable wheels also offer a certain amount of freedom of mobility that eliminates the need to know a train or bus route or the fare.

So why are so many consumers delinquent on their car loans?

Answers can be found by examining the terms of the loans. Just as the foreclosure crisis took people’s homes, the wrong car loan takes your mobility. Consumers with lower credit scores – less than 620 on a scale that reaches 850 – become easy targets for sub-prime auto finance that comes with interest rates from the mid-teens to as high as 20 percent. Auto finance companies are often used by lower credit score consumers looking to buy a car.

By comparison, consumers with credit scores of 661 to 780 or higher typically have car loan interest rates of 6 percent or less. These consumers frequently finance their autos from banks, credit unions, or the financing arms of major auto manufacturers. Of the nation’s $1.27 trillion in car loan debt, 30 percent of loans were made to consumers with credit scores over 760.

As Liberty Street reports, 6.5 percent of auto finance loans are 90 days or more past due, compared with only 0.7 percent of loans originated by credit unions. So unfortunately, once again, it is the struggling, working poor who are bearing the brunt of car loan delinquencies, often forged by predatory high-interest rates and other practices.

Another new and independent research report entitled, Driving Into Debt, found that the money now owed on cars is up 75 percent since the end of 2009, an all-time record.

Jointly authored by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) and the Frontier Group, this report states that subprime auto lenders inflict financial abuses that are both predatory and discriminatory from making loans to people without the ability to repay, marking up rates and prices on both Black and Latino customers, and financing expensive add-on products like extended warranties and insurance into the car loans.

“Americans shouldn’t have to fight their way through a thicket of tricks and traps at the auto dealer just to get the transportation they need to get to work or school,” said Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG’s senior director for federal consumer programs and a report co-author.

Nor does it help that in April of last year, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to nullify the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) auto finance guidance that held auto lenders responsible for discriminatory lending practices prohibited under the Equal Credit Protection Act. This distorted use of the Congressional Review Act, sometimes known as another CRA, was never intended to overturn long-standing agency practices.

But in 2018, the law was used to overturn 14 agency rules. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the auto lending CRA as part of a broader deregulation effort, stating: “Our whole economy is getting a tune-up. And now it’s time for the front end of the auto industry to come along for the ride.”

That kind of perspective suggests that the Majority Leader may have an unhealthy regard for fair lending laws, particularly those aimed at eliminating racial and ethnic discrimination. Further, time and actions will tell how much Kathy Kraninger, the new CFPB Director, is attuned to the predatory and discriminatory lending that continues despite federal laws.

“We need a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and help from state Attorneys General and local officials to enforce consumer and fair lending laws against unfair car loan tactics,” added Mierzwinski. “Otherwise, consumers and the overall economy will suffer.”

“Predatory and discriminatory auto lending practices notoriously prey upon the financially distressed, with loans that disregard the consumer’s ability to afford them,” noted Rebecca Borne, a Senior Policy Counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending. “Common-sense regulation and enforcement are needed to ensure responsible underwriting and elimination of other predatory practices that are consistently shown to result in borrowers of color paying more than white borrowers, even controlling for creditworthiness.”

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications Deputy Director. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Bay Area

IRS Extends Filing Dates in Counties Under Federal Emergency Declarations

The announcement affects residents in Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Monterey, Napa, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties, the IRS said.

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Eligible taxpayers will also have until May 15 to make 2022 contributions to their IRAs and health savings accounts.
Eligible taxpayers will also have until May 15 to make 2022 contributions to their IRAs and health savings accounts.

By Katy St. Clair, Bay City News Foundation

The Internal Revenue Service has extended its annual tax return due date by a month for people who live in areas impacted by the recent storms, the IRS announced on Tuesday.

California storm victims now have until May 15 to file their individual or business taxes if their area was declared an emergency by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The announcement affects residents in Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Monterey, Napa, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties, the IRS said. A full list of counties can be found at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-in-disaster-situations.

Eligible taxpayers will also have until May 15 to make 2022 contributions to their IRAs and health savings accounts.

Taxpayers will not have to do anything to initiate the extension, the IRS said, and do not have to contact the agency to get this relief.

Some other extensions are being granted to farmers, those who pay quarterly estimated payments, and those who pay quarterly payroll and excise taxes. To learn more, go to irs.gov.

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Bay Area

City Fails to Win $182 Million Federal Grant for Oakland A’s Howard Terminal Project

Opponents said the lack of a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Transportation “shows the lack of credibility — likely based on concerns over safety, economic viability, disruptions to port traffic and supply chains, echoed by maritime stakeholders — for the future of the project with key public transportation and political stakeholders that should prompt an overall re-evaluation.”

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A city document suggests $600 million will be needed for offsite infrastructure.
A city document suggests $600 million will be needed for offsite infrastructure.

By Keith Burbank | Bay City News

Oakland may miss out on millions of dollars in grant money that could advance the Oakland A’s proposed ballpark at the city’s port.

The U.S. Department of Transportation failed to recommend that Oakland get $182.9 million in the initial round of funding for the city’s Waterfront Mobility Project. Oakland has not received official word that it was denied the grant money.

The city has been securing dollars for the offsite infrastructure needed to support a new ballpark at the Charles P. Howard Terminal.

“While we are disappointed to have not been selected in the first round, we believe we put forward a strong application and are well positioned to secure other funding sources,” said Fred Kelley, director of the Oakland Department of Transportation. “We will continue to pursue other funding sources to ensure our projects have the resources they need.”

Oakland applied for grant money through the Mega Grant Program, which funds “large, complex projects that are difficult to fund by other means and likely to generate national or regional economic, mobility, or safety benefits.”

The ballpark proposed by the Oakland A’s would seat about 35,000 people, and the development overall consists of new housing, parkland, an entertainment venue and commercial space.

Not everyone wants the A’s to build a new park at the Port of Oakland. Groups have come together in opposition, hoping to have the A’s build a new park in East Oakland at the current Oakland Coliseum site.

Groups led by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association sued to stop Oakland from issuing a required environmental impact report for the proposed ballpark.

The opponents said the lack of a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Transportation “shows the lack of credibility — likely based on concerns over safety, economic viability, disruptions to port traffic and supply chains, echoed by maritime stakeholders — for the future of the project with key public transportation and political stakeholders that should prompt an overall re-evaluation.”

A city document suggests $600 million will be needed for offsite infrastructure. The city has secured or is in the process of securing more than $320 million of that money, according to city documents published in December.

Former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was a strong supporter of the project.

New Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said at her inauguration Monday that she will work with the Oakland A’s on a deal to keep the team in Oakland while protecting Oakland values.

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