BREAKING: AKPIRG Opposes HUD’s Proposed Rule Regarding Disparate Impact

Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG) submitted comments to HUD in opposition to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s revision of the disparate impact standard. Disparate impact is crucial to ensuring access to fair credit and homeownership opportunities for all communities. AKPIRG urges HUD to stick with its current interpretation of the disparate impact rule.

The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are getting a mortgage, buying a home, or renting an apartment. It makes it illegal to refuse or limit housing opportunities based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. Disparate impact is essential to enforce protections guaranteed by the Fair Housing Act because it provides a way to prohibit seemingly neutral policies that unnecessarily exclude people of color and other groups from housing. It has been widely effective in addressing discriminatory practices in mortgage lending, rental housing, and property insurance, thereby making housing more available to all.

AKPIRG is a consumer advocacy organization that works to ensure economic fairness in Alaska. In Alaska, people have experienced historic displacement and racial barriers to homeownership preventing them from benefiting from benefiting from wealth building opportunities. Many of our constituents are people of color who live on the economic margins and experience higher rates for auto loans, short-term personal loans, mortgage loans, and are not far from experiencing chronic homelessness. The added barrier of housing discrimination without legal enforcement or other recourse will be devastating to these families.

The disparate impact standard is necessary to prohibit policies that contribute to a widening racial and gender wealth gap. 

HUD’s Proposed Rule would destroy disparate impact liability and allow insurance companies, financial institutions, and other major corporations to engage in covert discriminatory practices without any consequences. It would leave communities of color and other groups without protection from unfair and discriminatory policies. HUD’s Proposed Rule goes against the very purpose of the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination and instead gives companies more defenses to justify their policies.

AKPIRG strongly urges you not to go forward with the proposed rule. HUD should withdraw this proposed rule immediately and follow its mission to enforce our fair housing and fair lending laws.

Sincerely,

Veri di Suvero

Executive Director

Alaska Public Interest Research Group

BREAKING: AKPIRG opposes exempting HMDA reporting.

October 11, 2019

Comment letter on Docket No. CFPB-2019-0021 or RIN 3170-AA76

AKPIRG opposes the proposal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to exempt thousands of lending institutions from reporting Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data. The Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG) is Alaska’s only statewide consumer advocacy non-profit. AKPIRG works to ensure that consumers rights are protected and they are treated equally. Part of our work includes teaching individuals how to raise their credit score through managing debt in collections, as well as alternatives to predatory, high-cost loans. These two factors have a major impact on a person’s credit score and can make it difficult or impossible to become a homeowner. As a member of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), we support NCRC’s detailed analysis and comments on this matter.

Congress passed HMDA in 1975. Lenders, including small volume lenders, have been collecting and reporting data for decades. Currently, if a lending institution makes 25 or fewer mortgage loans, it is not required to report HMDA data. We oppose the CFPB proposal to raise the threshold.

Likewise, the CFPB’s invitation for comments on even higher thresholds does not make sense. Congress has already exempted lenders making less than 500 loans from reporting the more complex HMDA data requirement under Dodd Frank. They are required to report the data they have collected and submitted for decades! 

The CFPB is also proposing to increase the threshold for reporting open-end lines of credit often called Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs). Under the CFPB’s proposal to increase the threshold to 200 open-end lines of credit, far too many lenders and loans will escape the scrutiny of public review.

The mortgage data that comes out of HMDA has been as important a measure for the financial institutions themselves as it has been for advocates in ensuring non-discrimination in lending.

Sincerely,

Veri di Suvero

Executive Director

Alaska Public Interest Research Group

AKPIRG Hires Two Language Access Consultants to Promote Statewide Census Participation

Anchorage, AK – The Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG) is pleased to announce the hiring of Rochelle Adams and Erin Willahan as an Indigenous Language Specialist and Language Access Coordination Consultant, respectively. They will focus on ensuring that response rates on the Census rise due to outreach and translated materials made available in Alaska Native languages and other world languages that the US Census Bureau does not provide translations for. Adams and Willahan will both be at Elders & Youth and the Alaska Federation of Natives to generate community participation in creating translations and to spread the word.

“It’s important that we as Indigenous people are able to shape the world that we live in, to ensure our wellbeing, on our own traditional homelands and in our own languages in order to make the best decisions. I am very excited to work towards fulfilling this need with AKPIRG for our Alaskan Native language and also other languages spoken across the state, to ensure that we all have access to necessary information around the Census and that we create a platform for the importance of inclusion,” states Rochelle Adams.

Erin Willahan previously worked with the Division of Elections to improve equitable access to voting and was involved in facilitating the creation and dissemination of official election materials in 14 Alaska Native languages. Rochelle Adams has continuously sought to bring her perspective as an Indigenous woman with cultural knowledge, born of the lands and waters, training from the elders with a vision of the future generations to empower Native people everywhere. They will be coordinating word creation, standardizing translation contracts, and outreaching to language experts to translate materials for the 2020 Census.

The 2020 Census begins in Alaska on January 21st, 2020 in Toksook Bay. Rural Alaska will be counted before the rest of the State and U.S. Historically, Alaska Native communities have been largely undercounted. An undercount means less Federal and State funds—from WIC to TANF to education to roads funding. The Census, a 10-question form, will not be translated into any Alaska Native languages by the US Census Bureau.

AKPIRG was founded in 1974 as a non-profit, non-partisan, citizen-oriented statewide organization focused on researching, educating, and advocating on behalf of the public interest.

 

AkPIRG was founded in 1974 as a non-profit, non-partisan, citizen-oriented statewide organization focused on researching, educating, and advocating on behalf of the public interest.

_____________________________________________________________________________

PO box 201416 ♦ Anchorage, Alaska 99520-1416 ♦ email: akpirg@gmail.com

The Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AkPIRG) is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations to AkPIRG are tax-deductible. EIN: 92-00047627

Alaskan Organizations and Elected Leaders Support Safe Debt Collection Practices

“All too often, debt collection practices can be harmful, predatory, and unfair. Debt collectors can be abusive and threatening. Sometimes, collectors will text and call consumers to the point where their phone plan maxes out, making it impossible to receive texts or calls from their lawyers. When they reach debtors, debt collectors will harass individuals endlessly. The Association of Credit and Collection professionals reported they called American consumers over one billion times in a year. Collectors will illegally threaten co-workers or family members on the phone. For active service members, debt collectors will call commanding officers to tell them about outstanding debts. Often, debt collectors will threaten criminal retribution, when debt collection is a civil matter. One Alaskan constituent reported that a debt collector found his home address and threatened to call the police if he didn’t pay his debt in full in the next 30 minutes. Under the FDCPA that threat is abusive, misleading, and illegal. The new CFPB rule continues to permit violations of consumer privacy, respect, as well as job security, and must be revised. “

Read more

AKPIRG co-signs amicus brief to the Supreme Court

AKPIRG and 58 other civil rights organizations filed a “friend of the court” brief today in a trio of cases before the Supreme Court. These combined cases, which the Court will consider next term, examine whether employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“This application of Title VII’s text is important to ensure that LGBTQ individuals are not “treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.” Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colo. Civil Rights Comm’n, 138 S. Ct. 1719, 1727 (2018). That is especially imperative for people living at the intersection of LGBTQ and racial-minority identities. For these people, racial bias is often compounded by other forms of discrimination.

Indeed, though LGBTQ people of color have made and continue to make great contributions to our society, they suffer far higher rates of job discrimination than their white counterparts.”

Get free tax prep at the VA Clinic

AARP Tax-Aid is offering volunteer tax preparation at the VA Clinic once a month until October.   This volunteer site is for veterans who need help preparing an uncomplicated tax return.

This site is by appointment only, and the phone number to call for an appointment has changed.  Veterans needing tax help should call 563-4228 and leave a message stating they are calling for a tax appointment at the VA Clinic.  

VA Free Tax Prep Flier June 2019.jpg

AkPIRG pressures big businesses to ban flame retardant chemicals.

Earlier this year, these chemicals were banned in Anchorage, but the rest of Alaska is still affected by big retailers who sell products containing flame retardant chemicals, which cause high rates of cancer in firefighters and consumers, and poor neurodevelopment in children.

Over 50 national and state consumer, public health, and environmental organizations are urging Best Buy to take action on toxic flame retardants.

Read our letter here >>

AkPIRG supports the ML&P and Chugach merger.

“Most importantly, this merger reflects the wishes of consumers. Both the Municipality of Anchorage and Chugach Electric have made assurances that no property tax or rate increases are needed to pay for this transaction. And the operation of ML&P will still be held accountable to those who receive its power, through Chugach’s cooperative model. This merging of two electric utilities in a relatively small electric market is a reflection of the wishes of Anchorage residents over the past few decades. This was codified in the 2018 municipal election in Proposition 10. “

Read our full comment here >>