Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dallas City Council Urged to Draft Resolution Limiting Predatory Lenders

It falls in the category of  'things that help keep low-income/working class neighborhoods struggling'.

Businesses that, rather than making a contribution to a neighborhood's health, wholesomeness and economic vitality, actually sap the same from those very neighborhoods. It's not a few liquor related businesses. It's dozens of liquor related businesses. It's not one heavy industrial recycler, its multiple heavy industrial recyclers that take up acres. It's not just a pawn shop, our a couple of check cashing stores or one or two pay day loan stores. It's when those business so proliferate in an area, that they depress property values and crowd out prospect of a broader range of commercial enterprise.

Lately, the spotlight has been turned on such businesses, because they prey upon the vulnerability of a working class neighborhoods struggling to make ends meet. People who often have little or questionable credit worthiness and who, even if their credit was in good shape, couldn't go to Bank of America, or Chase Bank for a $300-$1500 loan, when the car needs repair, or the water heater needs to be replaced.

Community Leader Diane Gipson, Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins, Pastor Freddie Haynes and me in a march calling attention to the proliferation of predatory lending stores in the Oak Cliff community of Dallas
 It wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that the money loaned by these businesses is let out an such an exorbitant rate. And the precarious financial circumstances of the people taking out such loans is exacerbated by loans with unlimited APRs and excessive fees.

Lately CitySquare, working with the United Way and AARP, along with other organizations, have asked the Dallas City Council to draft a resolution to be sent to the Texas state legislature, urging them to close the loophole that allows these businesses to charge such usurious interest rates.

Several weeks ago, I participated in a march with church leaders and other community leaders in march organized to bring attention to proliferation of these short term loan businesses in that area and calling on the council to support the resolution. The need for the council to take such an action was the focus of an article in the Dallas Morning News yesterday.
"In a roughly mile-long stretch of West Camp Wisdom Road between Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway 67 in the Red Bird area, nearly a dozen payday lender stores are doing business. Expand that radius a few more miles, and you can find dozens more such stores."

"Council member Jerry Allen, a longtime banker, said that has to stop, and that the city must begin to take steps to curb payday lending."

""We've allowed payday lenders to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. We've done a bad job in my opinion of working with the asset-poor," he said."

"According to the most recent figures available, Dallas is home to more than 200 payday-lending or check-cashing stores, with most of them located south of the Trinity River."

"On Dec. 13, a council committee hosted representatives from the United Way, the AARP, Friendship West Baptist Church and CitySquare, who spoke about the impact of payday lending on poor communities.

The group asked the council to pass a resolution urging the Texas Legislature to regulate the industry more tightly by capping the fees and interest they can charge."

Of course, neither the resolution, nor the legislative remedy are the total solution. Better education about emergency and short term help for people who don't make much money, but who find themselves in a financial tough spot is a crucial part to solving this problem. So is personal financial management training.
But equally important is for cities to stop using low-income, working class and poor communities as dumping grounds for commerce that exploits weaknesses and preys upon the desperation of the people who live there.

In short we all need to imagine ourselves better than we do. Businesses, even those in low-income, working class and poor communities, can make money and appeal to the higher aspirations of consumers. They can create employment opportunities in areas that appeal to the imagination and are practical. 'The Market' can be a servant instead of a master. But it will take imagination and political will.

We'll see justwe have in Dallas...

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