Understanding Our Work

The Buffalo Niagara Community Reinvestment Coalition is a group of 13 community leaders dedicated to ensuring all residents of WNY are subject to responsible banking and reinvestment; especially communities of color and historically disenfranchised neighborhoods experiencing the lingering effects of redlining.

What Does All That Mean?

Since having a bank account and the ability to borrow money is critical to stable homes and communities, we want to ensure everyone has an equal chance to access them. 

Without the ability to borrow money, people have a hard time doing things like buying or building homes, moving, making large repairs, starting a business, or saving money; all of which are important for the economic stability and success of neighborhoods. Often, individuals become reliant on predatory lending services-or businesses that take advantage of people they know need their help for financial services.

In the past, banks often drew red lines on maps to denote segregated communities of color because they viewed properties in black and immigrant neighborhoods as less valuable. They then made decisions about who to make loans to, how much money to lend, and how much houses were worth based on if you lived inside or outside the perimeter. 

Without financial support in the form of loans to start businesses, purchase property or keep up with maintenance of homes, many communities of color fell into disarray. This practice, which became known as redlining, was outlawed in 1968 through the Fair Housing Act (also known as the Civil Rights Act) however, some banks have been prosecuted for this discriminatory crime more than a decade into the 21st century.

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Of Buffalo's black residents live East of Main Street 1
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In 1980 it was two times as as difficult to get a mortgage in Buffalo's black neighborhoods than its white neighborhoods. 2
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Of Buffalo's black residents in 2000 lived in high poverty areas, compared with 10.8% of whites 3
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Buffalo is the sixth most segregated city in the country 4

Characteristics of the community you live in, such as the degree of poverty surrounding your home, plays a large role in your everyday life and access to quality jobs, education, safe housing,  healthy food, healthcare and unpolluted resources. As the sixth most segregated city in the country, Buffalo is a prime example showing the long term, negative effects of this discrimination on people’s lives.

To combat redlining, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was passed in 1977. It states that by law, a bank’s deposit facilities (their branches and ATMs) must serve the convenience and needs of the community surrounding them.

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This makes sense when you think about how a bank operates. A bank takes in money from a community, and uses that money to make loans. Without the help of these community members, banks can’t do business to make money. The CRA tries to ensure that a bank using a community’s money can’t profit without giving loans to the same people who helped them do business in the first place.

To make sure they’re following the law, banks are graded every 3 years to score how well they’re helping the communities where they do business. They get points for having a fair amount of loans given out to individuals living in neighborhoods they serve, charitable donations to local organizations and positive involvement within the community.

Our mission at the BNCRC is to eliminate inequitable banking practices and the enduring impact of redlining on the people of Western New York.

A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a document some banks create with cities they do business with in order to get CRA credit. It’s basically a list of promises the bank makes to the community agreeing to give back a certain amount of money in a set time frame or to create more fair lending and banking practices. Although valuable when honored, CBAs are not legally enforceable agreements, leaving many banks free to make promises for publicity they don’t follow through with. 

The BNCRC advocates for and monitors existing CBAs to ensure our community receives the dedication and commitment it deserves. We work with local institutions to advocate for fairer policies, better products and services, and to support the community in order to make banking and financial success an achievable reality.

Which WNY bank was found guilty of redlining and violating the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (prohibiting creditors from discriminating loan applicants based on race, sex, religion, etc.) within the last five years? 

“No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from, you should have a fair and equal opportunity to  live, to work and  to succeed.” 

       -Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the importance of the Fair Housing Act

“Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it. ”

Frances Wright

Notes:

  1. Blatto, A. (2018, April). A City Divided: A Brief History of Segregation in Buffalo (Rep.). Retrieved July, 2019, from People for the Public Good website: https://ppgbuffalo.org/buffalo-commons/library/resource:a-city-divided-a-brief-history-of-segregation-in-buffalo-1/
  2. Kraus. Race, Neighborhoods, and Community Power.
  3. Poverty in Buffalo (Rep.). (2014, September). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from People for the Public Good website: https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1346&context=buffalocommons
  4. Segregation Results from 2010," Census Scope, March 18, 2012, http://censusscope.org/dev/content/segregation-results-2010.
  5. Frishberg, D. (1976). Schoolhouse Rock [Cartoon].