Watch our Change the Map 7-minute video on YouTube

Celebrating the contributions of two outstanding women and a review of mortgage data from the past 36 years were among the highlights of Woodstock Institute’s 2021 Economic Justice Awards June 10. The theme of the virtual event centered around a new call to action: Change the Map.

If we want to change the map of segregation, poverty, and disadvantage in Chicago, in Illinois or throughout the country, we need to tackle the issues that will make a difference irrespective of whether it may make people uncomfortable. We need to have policy discussions that push boundaries and we need the resources to fight for communities with the same tools and tactics as those who see opportunity as a zero-sum game, who think that expanding opportunity for all must mean a loss of opportunity for themselves. 

Horacio Mendez, Woodstock Institute President

Helping to drive that call to action was a preliminary analysis of home loans from the past 34 years, based on Woodstock Institutes annual compendium of data, the Community Lending Fact Book. The Fact Book highlights mortgage data for the Chicago region based on information the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and Community Reinvestment Act require banks to share.  

Research Director Spencer Cowan shared key findings with the 150 participants in the virtual event:

  • In 1984, 55% of all mortgage originations were in the Southeast, Southwest, and West parts of the city. By 2019, only about 30% were in those areas.
  • If lenders had originated mortgages at the city average rate and loan amount in the Southeast, Southwest, and West regions for those 36 years, those three regions combined would have received over $114 billion more in mortgage investment.
  • The market share of home loans by banks dropped from 75% of all mortgages in Chicago in 1984 to 45% in 2019.

Cowan noted there’s nothing inherently wrong with loans from mortgage lenders, but banks, unlike mortgage lenders, provide other products and services that increase the financial health of communities.

These additional services are essential to building the kind of wealth that can help change the map—and they should be a bigger focus of the Community Reinvestment Act, he said. He also noted the new Illinois Community Reinvestment Act expands coverage to mortgage lenders. This is currently under consideration for the national CRA.

Congrats & A Surprise Proclamation for VP Brent Adams

Thank you and congratulations to our award winners: state Sen. Jacqueline Collins received our Scheinfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Kesha Warren Thompson was named Advocate of the Year.

Collins, who helped lead the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ drive for economic equity including the passage of the Predatory Loan Prevention Act, vowed to protect the legislation: “My motto is one word: vigilance, vigilance, vigilance,” she said. “Working with advocates like Woodstock and armed with the facts the Black Caucus and I intend to stand firm and fight hard to protect the economic justice pillar in our Equity Package and in turn the millions of consumers the pillar was designed to protect.”

Warren Thompson shared that she “nominated herself” to tell the story of the bad loan she received after a mentor introduced her to Woodstock Institute. “Someone needed to speak out and I nominated myself so the next person wouldn’t go through what I went through,” she said. “If we continue to hide, the situation will be suppressed and never be resolved.”

“I would like to thank Woodstock institute for just being that angel behind me,” Warren Thompson added. “You taught me to pay attention to the financials. Before meeting you, I didn’t know what they were doing to us was wrong.”

As Vice President for Policy and Communication Brent Adams presented the awards to Collins and Warren Thompson, the tables were turned when CEO Horacio Mendez read aloud a proclamation from the Illinois State Senate, dedicating June 10 in honor of Adams for his hard work and effective advocacy.