Magazine article American Banker

Mass. Banks Topped Their Own Premises in Low-Income Lending

Magazine article American Banker

Mass. Banks Topped Their Own Premises in Low-Income Lending

Article excerpt

Banks have invested nearly $514 million in Boston's minority and low-income neighborhoods, vastly exceeding promises they made five years ago.

The investments included $346 million in mortgages to low-income and moderate-income residents, $147 million to develop affordable housing, and $15 million to open eight branches, three loan production offices, and 47 automated teller machines.

The Massachusetts Community and Banking Council released the figures last week to commemorate the fifth anniversary of a deal that ended strife between banks and the community.

The 1990 agreement established the council, which serves as a forum for activists and bankers. It also led Massachusetts financial institutions to pledge more than $400 million in loans and investments to low-income areas.

Bankers and community activists said the Boston success should serve as a model for other cities.

"This is so significant that it really ought to be looked at by the rest of the country," said Robert T. Fichter, senior vice president at the Massachusetts Bankers Association.

Banks are vying for business from low-income residents, he said.

"That is a factor that hasn't occurred elsewhere," he said. "You have actual competition for lower-income, minority, and migrant communities."

Other cities should have no problem copying the Boston model, said Robert G. Brogna, community reinvestment officer at Shawmut Bank Massachusetts.

"It is just a question of people coming together in a nonadversarial situation and making sure everyone understands the needs of the population," he said. …

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