Abstract: Communities Must Be Vigilant: The Mixed Results of Grassroots Financial Regulation through the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977

Rebecca Marchiel


With their focus on the urban crisis, historians of the post-1945 United States often portray the political and economic reconfigurations of the metropolis as a linear march toward the conservative suburbs. In doing so, they have missed the successes of a 1970s urban movement that believed cities could be revitalized with help from American banks. National People's Action, a nationwide, multiracial coalition of working-class urbanites, scored legislative victories that increased the flow of mortgage credit to capital-starved neighborhoods in an effort to rebuild cities. Rejecting urban renewal projects designed by far-away bureaucrats, these reinvestment activists won federal regulations that enlisted financial institutions in resident-initiated, small-scale redevelopment—building homes on vacant lots, renovating old buildings, and rehabbing rental housing.