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More Cities Encourage Banks to Invest in Minority Communities

Cities across the country are sending a message to banks: If you want our deposits, you're going to have to invest in our communities, particularly in areas that are undeserved.

Since 2010, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, among others, have all considered or passed laws referred to as "responsible banking ordinances," Governing Magazine reported earlier this month.

These ordinances are designed to encourage banks to increase their lending and other services to the city's residents, particularly those in low-income communities, according to Governing.

That means these programs are especially important to minority communities, said Jesse Van Tol, spokesman for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Banks have been closing branches in low-income and minority communities across the country, and opening them in wealthier, disproportionately white neighborhoods, Van Tol said. Behind them, check-cashing businesses and pawn shops have moved in to fill the void.

Access to basic services and good loans can determine who builds wealth, Van Tol said.

Some communities that have enacted responsible banking ordinances have made branch access a criteria for banks to do business with the city, he said.

"Is the bank going to maintain branches? What are the banks' plans to open branches? These are the kinds of things that are part of the criteria," he said.