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Advocates say local banks engage in redlining

Low-income people of color who want to buy a house face serious problems in Buffalo. That's the view of the Buffalo Community Reinvestment Coalition, which is pressuring banks to issue mortgages in certain part of the city where they say redlining is occurring, which is barred by law.
The coalition held a rally Wednesday night in True Bethel Baptist Church, pushing for a Responsible Banking Ordinance to require banks to lend in the communities where they are receiving deposits. Advocates say statistics show some areas of Buffalo are redlined out of mortgages.

The coalition says not only should banks be required to loan more to minorities, but they should be required to help people learn how to improve their credit so they qualify for mortgages the same way people living in other parts of the city do. The group says banks are glad to accept deposits across the entire city but won't lend across every neighborhood.

James Lopez, who is on the legal staff for the Western New York Law Center, says many people need help with financial information.

"It's not just the issue of people who have low credit scores, but, it's people who have low credit scores because they don't have a history of building credit. They don't know what building credit looks like. So, part of the point in getting banks to invest in communities is also have that sort of outreach component," Lopez said.

PUSH Community Organizer John Washington says there are special problems for single-parent families.

"When it comes to single parent families, if they're renters, then all that money is just going for naught. So I think it's even more important when you want to build a base and build a strong community that you are allowing single parents to prosper. And as long as we are discriminating against them in lending, especially people of color, then you are going to have a lot of people working really hard and not moving anywhere," said Washington.

Speakers said this is a big issue because for many families their wealth is their home, building equity as the mortgage is paid

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.