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We participated in the National Day of Civic Hacking 2015

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Coders, technology enthusiasts, economists, teachers, high school students, and entrepreneurs joined representatives from eight government agencies for the third annual National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6. During this collaborative event, a diverse group of citizens worked together to tackle complex problems facing our communities using technology and publicly released data.

We participated in multiple National Day of Civic Hacking events this year, with CFPB staff attending events in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Oakland, Calif. and Burlington, Vt. During the event, participants provided input on our CFPB Owning a Home website and analyzed our public Consumer Complaint Database and our public Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) Database.

Kimberly Munoz, a front-end web developer, participated in one of Oakland’s many events, contributing to the OpenOakland project. She also introduced participants with a data science background to the CFPB public Consumer Complaint Database in hopes of inspiring more grassroots use of the CFPB’s open data.

Catherine Farman, a front-end developer, attended Code for Philly’s event. Catherine is working on our Owning a Home project to convert a budgeting PDF to a web application that is flexible and is able to fit in any screen.

We hope to connect with other communities interested in engaging with our public databases. We believe there are opportunities for coders, developers, and others with strong technical prowess to build innovative tools and applications that can enable consumers to live better financial lives.

Got a cool data project to share? Just tweet at @cfpb with #CFPBdata. You can also follow us on GitHub.

You have the right to free, unbiased financial information

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CFPB - Four years working for you

If you are confused and lost when you are shopping for a mortgage or when you are figuring out how to pay for college, you are not alone. If you wish you had a financial expert to turn to for trustworthy guidance about paying off debts, or opening a credit card, you are not alone.

If you believe you have the right to free, unbiased financial information, you are not alone – because at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we agree.

It’s our job to provide you with reliable, trustworthy information about the consumer financial marketplace. So, in the past four years we’ve worked hard creating online tools to inform your financial decisions that are truly free – no charges, no ads, no referral fees.

Three financial tools you can trust

Owning a Home helps you understand one of the most important financial decisions you’re likely to make: getting a mortgage. It explains the complex options you have when shopping for a mortgage loan, for example whether to consider a fixed rate or an adjustable rate. It lets you play around with different factors to see how they affect interest rates. You can also find an easy to use checklist for the closing process that will prepare you to sign on the dotted line.

Paying for College helps students, students-to-be, and their parents compare financial aid packages. For people paying off student loans, Repay Student Debt, a part of the tool, helps you understand your options for repayment, gives you resources to avoid missing payments, and offers helpful resources if you’ve defaulted on your loan. You’ll find a sample letter you can send to student loan servicers (the companies that send you a bill each month), and tips on how to communicate with debt collectors.

In Ask CFPB, you’ll find expert answers to more than 1,000 questions about financial products and services including student loans, credit cards, mortgages, credit scores, credit reporting, getting out of debt, and more. Over four million people have found reliable and unbiased answers to common questions, and we’re adding and improving questions all the time thanks to your feedback. You can rate each Ask CFPB question, letting us know if the answer was helpful, too long, incorrect or confusing. You can also submit questions you think would be good additions to the collection.

We will continue to add more features to our tools, create new tools for other major financial decisions, and make sure our resources stay up-to-date as we and other government agencies update rules. Try out our tools, send us your feedback, and share them with your friends.

When key financial decisions arise in your life, you are not alone. You can trust that our tools and resources will provide you with accurate, unbiased information so you can make the financial decisions you believe are best for you and your family.

We participated in the National Day of Civic Hacking (again)

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Coders, technology enthusiast, economist, teachers, high school students, and entrepreneurs joined representatives from more than seven government agencies for the second annual National Day of Civic Hacking from May 31- June 1. The event was locally organized and held in Washington, D.C. to confront complex societal problems affecting our neighborhoods, communities, and country.

During the event, we participated and watched representatives from traditionally disconnected groups work together on some of the most pressing issues facing the local and federal government. We asked participants to analyze our public Consumer Complaint Database and our Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Database.

The challenge

We challenged the participants to come up with ways to empower consumers by building tools and visualizations using two of our databases: our consumer complaint database and our HMDA database. Since the launch of the complaint database in June 2012, the number of consumer complaints has increased rapidly, surpassing the 300,000 mark earlier this spring. The breadth of the database now includes complaints on seven categories of products, ranging from credit cards to mortgages. Further, the HMDA database contains 6 years’ worth of mortgage transaction data, approximately 112 million records. Together, these two data sets provide a strong and open foundation for the public to generate interesting data analysis and application.

During the event, we were able to answer questions from civic hackers interested in using the data to build visualizations and applications. Local students Andy Zhao, Derek Zhou, Joe Zhou, Joie Wang, Kyle Zhou, and Rachel Wu, used our publicly available data to build a visualization tool that demonstrated which products, issues, and companies consumers are complaining about, as well as the cities and towns where complaints are most prominent. Druv Sharma, Hui Hung Martin Dertz, and Neisan Massarrat, used the HMDA data to build maps that illustrate lending patterns with respect to gender. This is exactly the type of involvement we’re hoping for and illustrates the opportunities we have to expand this type of public engagement.

What’s next?

We hope to connect with other communities interested in engaging with our databases. We believe there are opportunities for coders, developers, and others with strong technical prowess to build innovative tools and applications that can enable consumers to live better financial lives.

Got a cool data project to share? Just tweet at @cfpb with #CFPBdata.

Now recruiting: Technology & Innovation Fellows for 2015

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We’re excited to announce applications are now being accepted for the next round of CFPB Technology & Innovation Fellows. The fellowship is a two year program for software developers, graphic and user experience (UX) designers, data specialists, and cybersecurity professionals interested in leveraging technology to help further our mission of making financial products and services work for consumers.

We’re looking for talented individuals with diverse backgrounds who embrace our mission and are excited about building technology and helping to build our organization. We expect the next group of fellows to begin work in January 2015.

Since the program launched two years ago, fellows have been hard at work applying their talents to build amazing things to help financial products and services work for consumers. Today, I’m proud to share with you some of their work.

Fellows have been instrumental in creating and building:

Looking ahead, the next round of fellows will continue to build on these accomplishments as well as tackle new projects in areas such as building software for our website, developing consumer-friendly tools and materials, and supporting agency cybersecurity functions.

Technology and innovation are fundamental to our ability to achieve our consumer protection mission. If you’re ready to serve the public and help us build amazing things, apply now or sign up here.

Want to learn more? Check us out on GitHub or GitHub.io to learn more about the web applications our current fellows have developed and check out our Design Reel to see how current fellows have improved the ways consumers interact with the federal government.

Truth in Lending rule now available in easier-to-navigate format

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The public, industry, and the government all benefit from regulations that are easier to find, read, and understand. That is why last year we launched our eRegulations tool which combines important information that can often be difficult to navigate or is spread throughout a regulation, often separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages. Ideally, using eRegulations will lead to better compliance and improved accessibility.

Now, as part of the eRegulations tool, we’re launching an intuitive, easier-to-navigate electronic format of Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act. Regulation Z is the flagship federal regulation protecting consumers when it comes to credit products. Regulation Z can be complex to understand for people who have not specialized in it. And it has changed a lot recently with the addition of new rights and disclosures for mortgages.

By adding Regulation Z, one of the most complex and heavily-consulted consumer financial regulations, we can help mortgage stakeholders better understand and comply with the recent amendments implementing the Ability to Repay rules, the new federal mortgage integrated disclosures, and other changes. Stakeholders who deal with credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and other consumer credit will also benefit, because Regulation Z covers virtually all forms of consumer credit.

In order to help stakeholders navigate changes to the regulation, eRegulations displays the currently effective version of Regulation Z, previous versions beginning December 30, 2011, and any planned versions that are not yet effective (but are published in the Federal Register). In addition, a new feature allows you to compare two versions of a regulation, and see the differences in your browser. For example, check out the differences in §1026.32 between 2011 and the current regulation.

eRegulations going forward

As we continue our work to make regulations easier to use, we need to hear from you about what works best and how this tool is valuable to you.

How can you help?

First, if you haven’t seen eRegulations, check it out.

Next, tell us what you think. Help us understand if the tool is more helpful to you than regulatory sources that you use today (and why) and what about this tool is most valuable or what could be better.

Finally, share it. Help us get the eRegulations tool into the hands of others who can use it and benefit from it. This tool is open source, so we’d love for other agencies, developers, or groups to use it and adapt it.

A note from our lawyers

Please note, eRegulations is not an official legal edition of the Code of Federal Regulations or the Federal Register, and it does not replace the official versions of those publications.

New tools to explore mortgage data

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Last fall, we released a web-based tool showing basic mortgage statistics for counties and cities across the country. Today, we are adding new features so you can explore the data in more flexible ways.

What are the new features?
The updated tool is loaded with features and flexibility. You can use the new features to analyze trends in your area or across the nation. Software developers can use our Application Programming Interface (API) to build their own tools.

  • Choose custom filters. You can choose to see only the data you want. Filter the data by geography (state, metropolitan area, county, and census tract), loan characteristics, property type, and more. We provide some suggested filters to help you get started.
  • Create custom summary tables. For example, you can compare refinances and home purchases over the past few years, or see county-level trends in federally related mortgages.
  • Download the data. Once you have the data you want, you can download it in the format of your choice. We offer CSV, which is compatible with most spreadsheet programs. We also offer JSON, JSONP, and XML, which are standards commonly used by software developers. You can also preview the first 100 records before you download the data.
  • Save and share results. Each query has a unique web address, so you can save and share your results. Just click on the “share” button to copy the link. Then, paste it into a document, an email, a Facebook post, a tweet, or anywhere else you’d like to share it.
  • Tools for developers. Software developers can use and contribute to our API. Software engineers and developers interested in improving the underlying Public Data Platform (aka, Qu) can get involved on GitHub. API developers who want to build tools using the API can browse the documentation, and if there are technical questions, you can engage with CFPB developers using GitHub issue tracking.

What kinds of information are in the data?
Our tool comes loaded with data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). HMDA requires certain banks and other financial institutions to collect, report, and publicly disclose information about mortgage loans and applications. In 2012, HMDA data included approximately 18.7 million records from 7,400 financial institutions. The data are publicly released every year, usually in September.

You can use our tool to explore information about loans, lenders, properties, and borrower demographics. For example, the data has information about the type of loan being made, such as whether it’s backed by a government program through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It’s important to note that the data do not include direct identifying information, like names or Social Security numbers. To learn more, read our Privacy Impact Assessment.

Get started
If you are new to HMDA data, start with our introductory video. You’ll learn about the data, how it’s collected, why it’s useful, and what variables it contains. Then, check out our maps and charts. If you want to do your own analyses, you can explore the data. Software developers should check out our API and documentation.