U.S. Bancorp cuts deal with housing advocates

March 2, 2011

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(WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)
An opponent of a federal takeover of Park National Bank puts tape around a Chicago branch in 2009.

One of the nation’s largest financial firms will fund some nonprofit groups in Chicago-area neighborhoods devastated by foreclosures.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, the parent of U.S. Bank, has faced pressure from community groups in West Side neighborhoods and nearby suburbs since 2009, when it purchased an Oak Park-based banking chain, FBOP Corp., as part of a federal rescue.

FBOP units included Park National Bank, a Chicago-area lender known for charity and investment in low-income areas. U.S. Bancorp said it couldn’t fill those shoes, but last fall started negotiating with a cluster of West Side groups called the Coalition to Save Community Banking.

Now they’ve inked an agreement. U.S. Bancorp will put up $600,000 for rehabbing six foreclosed homes, according to the coalition’s Rev. Catherine Palmer. Three of the homes are in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and three are in Maywood, a suburb nearby.

Palmer says U.S. Bancorp will contribute a smaller sum for housing advocacy by the coalition and four other groups: Bethel New Life, Inc.; South Austin Coalition; Westside Health Authority; and Maywood-based Housing Helpers, Inc.

U.S. Bancorp spokeswoman Lisa Clark confirmed the two sides have struck a deal, but she declined to provide details.

John Taylor, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition in Washington D.C., praises the bank. “The fact that it’s willing to make some commitments to local organizations to help them do their work is a good sign.”

But Taylor offers some cautionary advice: “The groups need to continue to work together to make sure that the bank is indeed making the loans for mortgages and, for that matter, for small businesses and needs that are in the community.”

U.S. Bancorp and the coalition are planning to unveil the agreement this Friday.