Bankers may soon be out of excuses for not making loans to poor people. On Dec. 8, federal regulators proposed streamlining a key banking law, the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, to clarify banks' obligations. Banks will have two options for taking the guesswork out of the law. They could draft their own plan for lending, which regulators would have to approve. Or they could show that their market share in all neighborhoods is roughly the same. Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig predicts the proposed reforms "will channel billions of dollars of new credit into America's distressed communities."

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