Financial holding company Evans Bancorp, Inc., recently announced a settlement agreement has been reached with the New York State Attorney General for alleged discriminatory mortgage practices.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a press release that Evans Bank made a “trade area” map, or places in Buffalo where the bank focused much of their lending, that did not include much of the city’s African-American-dominated East Side from 2009 to present, allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act.
Despite their creditworthiness, African-Americans were not included.
The bank, accused of redlining, or denying mortgage loans to predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Buffalo, New York, has agreed to establish an $825,000 settlement fund to promote homeownership and affordable housing, the Attorney General explained. The settlement requires that Evans revise its lending area to include the East Side neighborhoods and other areas previously excluded from the bank’s lending area, and to encourage lending activity in the East Side and other previously excluded areas.
“It is essential that all New Yorkers, regardless of the color of their skin or the racial make up of their neighborhoods, be afforded equal access to our banking systems – and the basic benefits of obtaining a mortgage," Attorney General Schneiderman said. “That we continue to see systematic racial and housing discrimination in New York in 2015 is shocking. I will not stand for it.”
Evans Bank dismissed the allegations that they participated in redlining mortgage lending practices and that the lawsuit was not based on substantial and specific evidence.
"Throughout the course of this matter, no specific incidents were ever claimed, described, or identified and, as such, we believe the underlying lawsuit was based on unsubstantiated information and Evans would have eventually prevailed in court,” said David J. Nasca, president and CEO of Evans Bancorp.
He added, “We firmly believe that Evans did not violate any state or federal laws regarding our residential mortgage practices. The decision to enter into this settlement reflects our desire to concentrate on our core business without distraction and continue to focus on projects and initiatives that will improve the quality of life and economic well-being of the community at large."
The settlement will end the New York lawsuit, which was brought about a year ago, by a joint Stipulation of Discontinuance in Federal Court filing from both parties.
Additional Settlement Agreement Terms for Evans Bank:
- Administer, over a three-year period, a $100,000 grant program to encourage homeownership in Buffalo's East Side neighborhoods.
- Over a two-year period, invest $200,000 in advertising and marketing designed to reach potential applicants and residents of the complaint area.
- Pay $50,000 to the New York State Attorney General for costs and fees.
- Revise its commercial and consumer loan policy, and any other applicable policies or summaries of policies that specifically reflect to the complaint area; and eliminate any minimum dollar requirement for mortgages contained therein. Any necessary training of Evans employees regarding such revisions shall be provided in accordance with the agreement.
Click here to view Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s complete announcement.