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Bank settlement could fuel housing rehab on East Side

An $825,000 settlement between Evans Bank and New York State could provide a major boost to revitalization efforts on Buffalo's East Side.

The bank has been target of a lawsuit that claimed it denied mortgage loans to people in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Dennis Vacco, a former state attorney general who currently represents Evans Bank, tells WBFO his client has never admitted any wrongdoing in this long-festering dispute. But he said the bank believes it's in the best interests of the community to settle the matter.

“This is a decision on the part of Evans to avoid the further cost of litigation, and instead dedicate the resources that otherwise would have been spent on lawyers to spend that money to help fuel the economic development that’s ongoing in the city of Buffalo,” he said.

The $825,000 settlement includes a $475,000 grant to the City of Buffalo that will fund housing-related programs. Other funds will be channeled into advertising and marketing to reach potential lenders, including East Side residents, along with special financing programs.

A well-known East Side advocate said she's hopeful the settlement will help to improve living conditions in various neighborhoods.

“Most of the houses on the east side of Buffalo arein very, very poor condition," said Marlies Wesolowski, who heads the Matt Urban Center. " They’re old and have had very little investment over time.”

She said her group has been aware that so-called redlining has been occurring in economically-challenged neighborhoods.

“There’s always been speculation and rumor about various financial institutions redlining certain areas. If we hear of things like that going on, we work very closely with the attorney general’s office.”

Vacco said discussions will occur with city officials in the near future to determine precisely how funds will be spent.

“We have not specifically identified  particular projects this point and time. The settlement calls for Evans and the City of Buffalo through Mayor Brown’s office over the next 60 days to develop a letter of agreement that would outline, or specifically how the settlement fund will be spent.”

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