The sign on the door of First Atlanta Bank's West End branch said, "Hours, Monday-Friday, 9-4," but Hank Green and Stephanie Lawton knew better. They were in line with a dozen others at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
The lure wasn't the unusual weekend banking hours. It was $10 million in home loans at low-interest rates now offered by First Atlanta to working-class homebuyers and homeowners.
"We're going to get us a house," Miss Lawton, 21, said as she waited with Green and her 3-year-old son, Chris. "A nice house."
Saturday was the first day First Atlanta accepted applications for its share of $65 million in loans announced this month in response to charges of racial discrimination. Some of the loans are available to working-class borrowers in all of the metro area, others only in particular working-class areas.
Saturday also was the first day that three First Atlanta branches in predominantly black south Atlanta were open on Saturday. Citizens and Southern Bank (C&S) and Trust Company Bank also have new Saturday hours at some Southside branches.
The low-interest loans and new hours were offered in response to "The Color of Money," a series of articles this month in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Based on lenders' statistics, the articles described how banks and savings and loans rarely made home loans in black neighborhoods, and also offer less access to bank services in black and integrated areas.
About 200 people, blacks and whites, came to First Atlanta branches in four hours Saturday for the loan programs, officials said.
Green and Miss Lawton, who are black, said they are shopping for a house in anticipation of their wedding next month. They will apply for a loan when they find a home.
"I've been other places before for a loan but I didn't get one," said Green, 25, a mail sorter for the U.S. Postal Service. "You hate to think it's a race thing, but you wonder."
C&S will start taking applications Monday at any branch for its $10 million in home-purchase loans and $15 million in home-improvement loans. Trust Company is already taking applications for its $10 million. Nine lenders in an additional $20 million pool will start June 20.
The loan programs vary, but all have more liberal credit standards than usual, lower closing costs and no requirement of mortgage insurance. All of the programs are available only to owner-occupants, but not for refinancing.
First Atlanta's $10 million program has the lowest interest rate -- prime rate, now at 9 percent. That's more than 1 point below what most lenders are charging for their regular home loans. The rate on the First Atlanta mortgages could increase up to 1 percent a year, but never higher than 11 percent.
First Atlanta also requires less down payment, making loans up to 97 percent of appraised value; at the other lenders in the special program it's 95 percent. First Atlanta's income limit is stricter, with a maximum household income of $30,000; at C&S it's $35,000.
While C&S is making loans to qualifying homebuyers and homeowners in any area, First Atlanta's loans are only in these ZIP codes: 30002, 30030, 30032, 30049, 30050, 30060, 30079, 30303, 30307, 30308, 30310, 30311, 30312, 30313, 30314, 30315, 30316, 30317, 30318, 30320, 30330, 30331, 30336, 30337, 30344, 30354 and 30518. Trust Company has not announced its target areas.
Those ZIP codes are not all on the inner-city Southside. Parts of Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties are included. None of the programs has a racial stipulation, although many of the targeted neighborhoods are mostly black.Go to the next article or back to the Color of Money index or Power Reporting
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