It was also my first full year as Woodstock’s President & CEO ... the timing of which was both inspiring and tragic.
It was a year where we saw constructive action result from the national outrage at George Floyd’s murder in 2020. The resulting mainstream awareness of systemic racial injustices inspired a hopeful response in Illinois and Chicago, as evidenced by overwhelming support for the passage of the Predatory Loan Prevention Act, the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act and Chicago’s Lending Equity Ordinance.
We celebrated these wins, but our 2021 research showed there’s much more to do. Looking back at four decades of analysis from our Community Lending Fact Books showed heartbreakingly little change despite well-intentioned efforts. That was the genesis of our ambition to “Change the Map”—the focus of the June 2021 virtual gathering where we shared our findings.
Our ambition to change the map will inform Woodstock Institute’s vision and programmatic work over the next several years: we will continue to conduct the research Chicago relies on Woodstock Institute to create — and we will do more to share actionable insights from our data that help drive meaningful change.
One example of how we’re doing this work is the direct-to-consumer communications and advertising campaign we created to raise awareness of the new Predatory Loan Prevention Act after it passed in 2021. The campaign, featuring radio advertising and interviews with trusted leaders and advocates, continues to raise awareness of the law and provides borrowers with helpful resources.
None of this would have been possible without these essential elements:
As you read this, 2023 is right around the corner—the year of Woodstock Institute’s 50th anniversary of advocating for economic equity and racial justice. Expect a strong focus on our history, an ambitious vision for our next 50 years, and one hell of a party.
Finally – but most importantly – I want to express appreciation for your role and leadership in helping us to continue to do this work. Thank you!
President & CEO
In March we celebrated a success more than 20 years in the making when the state capped the interest rate on personal loans at 36% APR with the Predatory Loan Prevention Act (PLPA), which was part of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’s legislative agenda.
The Black Caucus turned to Woodstock Institute for technical assistance and advocacy to help pass both the PLPA and the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which made Illinois the fourth state to enact a reinvestment law and just the second to cover all three primary types of mortgage lenders: banks, credit unions, and non-bank mortgage companies.
Today, Woodstock Institute co-convenes the Illinois CRA Coalition with Housing Action Illinois. Our coalition organizes community groups across Illinois to advocate for strong implementation of the new Illinois CRA, as well as for reforms to strengthen the federal CRA law.
In September, the Chicago City Council drew on the expertise of Woodstock Institute and other members of the Housing Policy Task Force to update policies examining the city’s banking partners. The Lending Equity Ordinance (LEO) requires banks applying to do business with the city to share demographics on who they are lending to and hiring. LEO also establishes an annual hearing before the City Council Finance Committee to discuss the data.
Our Community Lending Data Portal & Fact Book research series has compiled Chicago loan data for nearly 40 years. In 2021 we revamped our approach beginning with the 2019 Data Edition. We now offer free print and downloadable versions and continue to upgrade our online tools at woodstockinst.org/data-portal.
We also analyzed, for the first time, historic Community Lending Data Portal & Fact Book series data to review change over time in lending to Chicago-area communities. Results were disappointing to say the least, as we reported in June with CRA Mortgages: A Failure to Implement:
Regulators have failed to hold banks to a reasonable standard when it comes to operating in all communities, not just the wealthier and whiter ones. This allowed lenders to continue a vicious cycle that fails to address lack of access to credit for people in communities of color and low-to- moderate income communities. This finding has influenced us to re-focus on advocating for bank regulators to raise their standards, among other next steps.
When the Predatory Loan Prevention Act became law, predatory lenders closed across Illinois. While data from other states that passed rate caps showed that consumers found alternatives to payday loans, we knew consumers needed access to information and resources.
We invested in multiple consumer outreach initiatives. After seeing the success of Get My Payment Illinois, an online resource helping consumers make sense of COVID-19 relief payments, Woodstock Institute created WeProsper Illinois with our partners at New America Chicago and Chicago Urban League. The WeProsper Illinois website, WeProsperIL.org, is home to consumer financial education resources to help consumers lower bills, find additional income sources, and access safe and affordable financial products.
Funders rallied around our campaign, supporting advertising and an online presence that brought the message about the new 36% APR cap directly to consumers. In 2021 we focused on Chicago’s Black communities, which were the most targeted by payday lenders.
We advertised on WVON, Chicago’s premier Black radio station, featuring messages on saving and drive-time interviews with trusted messengers including Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and other elected officials and advocates.
The pandemic brought out our creativity, as we re- envisioned our annual gathering and awards event in June 2021. The virtual event brought together 115 community leaders, lenders, and other friends and supporters of Woodstock Institute.
At the Economic Justice Awards event, we issued a new call to action. Our report CRA Mortgages: A Failure to Implement presented the discouraging conclusion that community lending had changed little over the decades. We set ourselves an ambitious goal: to “Change the Map.”
Participants brainstormed ways to create economic equity and racial justice in Chicago’s historically segregated areas, which overlap with all the indicators of the racial wealth gap. This gap is shown clearly on maps of Chicago that overlay these indicators. Some of those ideas, such as growing community-led institutions, are feeding into our community outreach and other work today.
We also recognized leaders who helped drive the significant progress we saw in 2021. Those included state Senator Jacqueline Collins, who helped shepherd the Black Caucus’s economic justice agenda through the Legislature, and Kesha Thompson Warren, a small business owner whose story of getting stuck in a predatory loan and calls for change played a key role in advancing the PLPA.
For University of Illinois at Chicago School of Law Professor Michael Seng, data analysis is a big part of what separates today’s economic justice work from the Civil Rights era in which he came of age. Emphasis on the value of analyzing research is one reason he invests in Woodstock Institute.
“When the era of ‘separate but equal’ ended with Brown v. Board of Education you had a footnote in the decision about social science research,” Seng says. “Now it’s ‘where’s the data?’ The money I give to Woodstock is well used – they are very accomplished researchers, doing research nobody else is going to do.”
A native Iowan, Seng received his B.A. and law degrees at University of Notre Dame. In 1968, he took a position at Jenner & Block in Chicago, where Seng embraced opportunities to work on civil rights issues, then led a legal services office in downstate Cairo.
Seng returned to Chicago in 1976 to take a position as a professor at John Marshall Law School (now part of the University of Illinois at Chicago). He continued to follow housing and civil rights issues, and he took notice when the U.S. Department of Justice won fair housing lawsuits by collecting and analyzing data showing patterns of discrimination.
In 1992, Professor Seng helped found the Fair Housing Legal Support Center & Clinic at the School to educate the public and provide legal assistance in housing cases. The Center was a legal venue to highlight the risks from subprime lending in the early 2000s. Seng has been honored for his work by the Illinois State Bar Association and the Catholic Lawyers Guild.
“I always liked the idea of Woodstock as more than just a think tank,” Seng says. “They’re about conducting really good research, making information available and actively participating in the legislative process.”
We appreciate Professor Seng’s investment in our work!
The Chicago Community Trust
Grand Victoria Foundation
Polk Bros Foundation
Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund
Capital One Financial
First Midwest Bank
Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago
Woods Fund of Chicago
Big Cat Foundation
Northern Trust Company
BMO Harris Bank
Evergreen Bank Group
Harris Family Foundation
Midland States Bank
MUFG Union Bank
Providence Bank & Trust
Baird & Warner
Community Savings Bank
Brian Fabes & Lisa Schneider Fabes
Fifth Third Bank
First Eagle Bank
Robert S. Hogan
Hoyne Savings Bank
Margaret Silliker & John Ryan
Juan Carlos Linares
Mary Fran Riley
Sheila Murphy & Patrick Racey
Thomas FitzGibbon, Jr.
Director, Evergreen Bank Group
Housing & Financial Education Consultant
First Vice President, CRA Officer, Marquette Bank
President, Calvin Bradford & Associates, Ltd.
Citi Community Development
SVP & Executive Director, Global Policy Affairs & Community Relations, MasterCard
Segment Lead – Minority and Women Owned Businesses, U.S. Bank
Director of Public Policy, Lending Club
SVP, Community Development Program Director, Huntington National Bank
Principal Consultant, JCH Research
Juan Carlos Linares
President and CEO, Association House of Chicago
President & CEO, Woodstock Institute
President, Core Business Solutions, IFF
President & CEO,
Shriver Center on Poverty Law
Organizations listed for identification purposes only.
President and CEO
Senior Vice President of Policy and Communication
Director of Research
Policy and Communication Associate
Amber S. Hendley
Director of Development
Join us to celebrate 50 years of collaborative work to create a just financial system and close the racial wealth gap. Guests will include community leaders, government officials, and representatives from financial institutions.
5:00 pm – VIP Reception
5:30-7:30 pm – Main Reception & Program
University Club of Chicago
76 E Monroe Street | Chicago, IL 60603
At Woodstock Institute, we’re working to create an economy where everyone has access to the financial services and resources they need to prosper.
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