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Partnerships to Prevent Predatory Lending

CFPB

Image from The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, displaying Your home loan toolkit: A step-by-step guide, a Loan Estimate form, a Closing Disclosure, and an online resource for consumers (Owning a Home).

Last week, WAMU – our local NPR affiliate – ran a much-needed series on predatory-lending practices in Virginia. In “The Debt Trap,” as the series was dubbed, Reporter Michael Pope specifically focuses on car-title and consumer-finance lenders and the stories of people honestly tricked by an intentionally-deceptive industry. Pope’s sources are military personnel and individuals trying to pay medical bills or rent. Several didn’t realize that their title loans had been “upgraded” to consumer finance loans, which are essentially unregulated in Virginia with no mandated cap on interest rates.

Throughout the series, Pope cited two Forum One clients who are actively working to protect consumers from predatory lending practices and educate them to make more informed financial decisions: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and theCenter for Responsible Lending (CRL).

Protecting Consumers from Inside the Bureau

The CFPB is a new government agency created to protect consumers by ensuring banks and other financial service providers operate fairly. The CFPB also provides resources and unbiased information to empower consumers to take control of their financial lives.

The “Know Before You Owe Integrated Mortgage Disclosure” rule (known as ‘Know before you owe’) is a recent example of the Bureau in action. Many people who have gone through the home-buying process complain that it’s overwhelming, and full of complicated terms and forms. Home buyers often feel confused and rushed, which leads to mistakes and surprises when it’s time to close.

The new regulation from the CFPB, which went into effect on October 3rd, 2015, will reduce this stress by streamlining the process. First, the new rule combines four overlapping forms into two easier-to-understand forms: the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure. Second, consumers now have more time to review closing documents, and ask questions before signing. To learn more, visit consumerfinance.gov.

To help supplement the rule, the CFPB’s in-house team created resources and tools to help consumers navigate the mortgage process.

Resources include:

  • Know before you owe landing page: The primary goal was to explain the initiative and direct consumers to useful resources and tools.
  • A real estate professional’s guide: The primary goal was to provide real estate professionals with the information and tools they need to better serve their clients.
  • Form explainer pages: Digital, interactive, resources that help consumers understand and use the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure.
  • Your home loan toolkit: Consumers will receive this booklet when they apply for a mortgage to purchase a home. The toolkit has worksheets and conversation starters to help consumers at key points in the mortgage process.
  • Owning a Home: A suite of tools to guide consumers through the process of buying a home.
  • Much, much more: The in-house design team also created a full campaign around the new rule’s implementation. Additional pieces include:
    • Video (watch on YouTube)
    • Photography
    • Informational handouts
    • Custom illustrations
    • Blog posts
    • Infographics
    • Sharegraphics
    • Media Kit

A Strategy To Catalyze Consumer Finance Advocacy

Last summer, the CRL approached Forum One to develop a strategy for its web presence in 2015 and beyond. The CRL website, as well as email and social channels, are critical communications platforms for its efforts to combat predatory-lending practices, protect home ownership and family wealth, and demonstrate its distinctive ability to convene organizations involved in civil rights, consumer advocacy, anti poverty, and wealth building.

The website is the central hub in CRL’s mission to provide policy audiences with high quality research on key issues as well as tell the story of the impact of CRL’s work. Forum One has reviewed the current site’s analytics, conducted interviews with representatives from CRL’s target audiences, compared the web presences of other organizations working on consumer issues, and led strategic planning workshops to guide our online recommendations.

Our strategy included developing coherent messages about CRL’s work and whom it serves, incorporating visual storytelling elements that could appeal to potential supporters, and increasing the promotion of its experts and their work. The new CRL website is currently in development, and we look forward to seeing our recommendations brought to life very soon.