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Report: St. Louis banks improving outreach to underserved communities

Athrasher | Flickr

St. Louis area banks are becoming more accessible to low-income and minority neighborhoods. That’s according to a new report released by the St. Louis Equal Housing and Community Reinvestment Alliance.

In a survey of 23 banks, the alliance found that St. Louis banks have added at least seven branches in low-income or minority neighborhoods in the past three years. The banks have also made at least $2.4 billion in development loans and investments since 2012, earmarked for people and communities that don’t have much money.

“The numbers that we received back were a lot higher than I thought they were,” said Elisabeth Risch of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council, who compiled the report.           

“The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the number of people that have been hired by banks to focus on community development lending or mortgage lending to low and moderate-income borrowers and communities,” Risch added.

According to the report, 10 banks hired 26 people for that role. Since 2011 those 10 banks have seen an 86 percent increase in low-income borrowers and an almost 200 percent increase in African American borrowers.

“There are a lot of positive things that have happened and continue to happen, but there’s still a lot more work to be done,” Risch said. “There’s (still) a big disparity within minority lending. We also see neighborhoods, particularly in north city, that don’t have any bank branches.”

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.