Bank South has announced a 10-point plan to reverse inequities in service to Atlanta's predominantly black inner-city Southside.
The announcement follows both a newspaper investigation of bank lending patterns and a legal challenge filed against Bank South.
The changes include:
-- A new branch in the Kroger supermarket at 2626 Rainbow Way near South DeKalb Mall, with other branches being considered.
-- A new center for mortgage loan applications on the Southside inside the Perimeter by year's end.
-- A new department for small-business loans of $30,000 to $100,000, with at least one center on the Southside inside the Perimeter.
-- New Saturday hours, beginning August 6, in West End and East Atlanta branches.
-- Renovation this year of the West End, East Atlanta, East Point and College Park branches, all serving black or integrated areas.
-- Hiring of qualified real estate appraisers even if they are not members of the two largest national appraisal societies, which in Atlanta have no black members. All appraisers will be required to sign a statement of non-discrimination.
-- A new ad campaign targeting minorities.
-- Participation in programs of education and career development for inner-city youth.
-- A program, yet to be defined, "to have a tangible positive impact" on a Southside neighborhood.
-- A new statement of non-discrimination in bank policies.
Bank South, the fourth-largest bank in Atlanta, has not announced a large program of home loans similar to the $45 million plan announced by three larger banks. However, it has contributed $2 million to the Atlanta Mortgage Consortium, enough for about 50 loans. The consortium of nine lenders is making an additional $20 million in home loans at low interest rates and favorable terms.
The Bank South changes address many of the issues raised in a series of articles May 1-4 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The newspapers' study showed that Bank South and other deposit-gatherers made few home loans in black neighborhoods of any income, had closed branches in minority areas, kept branches in black areas open fewer hours than branches in white areas, rarely called on minority real estate brokers and enforced minimum loan amounts that rule out many minority and low-income homebuyers and businesses.
The articles were followed by a challenge filed by a Georgia community group against Bank South's plan to buy a Florida bank. The Georgia Association of Communities Organized for Reform Now (ACORN) asked the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to delay or deny Bank South's plan to buy C&P Bank Corp. of Pensacola.
The bank's response to the challenge is due next week, and bank officers are negotiating with ACORN.
"We hope what we are doing now will be pleasing to them and will help mollify some of the concerns that they have," said bank spokesman Bo Spalding.
The changes were recommended by a task force appointed by Robert P. Guyton, Bank South president and chief executive officer.
While not acknowledging any past inequity, task force Chairman Bucky Kimsey said "our research showed that financial service companies can do a better job of serving the Southside. The programs we have recommended will send a clear signal that Bank South intends to have a meaningful, long-term presence in this area, both as a bank and as a good neighbor."Go to the next article or back to the Color of Money index or Power Reporting
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