The Star-Ledger

Merging Banks Vow $676 Million For Affordable Homes

The Star-Ledger — Thursday, July 3, 2008

By Tom Hester

TD Banknorth and Commerce Bank, which are in the process of merging, yesterday committed to providing $676.5 million statewide over the next three years to support affordable housing development and improvements.

The banks signed an agreement to provide the financial support with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey and New Jersey Citizen Action, two nonprofit organizations, at a gathering in Trenton.

The banks will provide roughly $160 million for below-market-rate mortgages for low- and moderate- income, first-time homebuyers or those who are refinancing; $130 million for loans and investments for nonprofit community development organizations; $350 million for small business loans; $24 million in low-income tax credits; $1.5 million in grants for nonprofit housing groups, and at least $10 million in unsecured "Helping Hand Improvement Loans" at discount rates for homeowners and renters.

The banks are preparing to merge as TD Commerce Bank. The merger will create one of the 20 largest commercial banking organizations in the nation with more $119 billion in assets.

"New Jersey is a critical market for TD Commerce Bank," said Elizabeth Warn, vice president for community development. "The ... agreement with New Jersey Citizen Action and the Housing and Community Development Network solidifies our collective commitment to developing under-served neighborhoods through access to financial services."

The Housing and Community Development Network and New Jersey Citizen Action attempt to provide guidance to the bankers on low- and moderate-income housing issues, according to Paige Carlson-Heim, the network's director.

"This agreement represents precisely the sort of private sector commitment New Jersey's communities need to turn their fortunes around," Carlson-Heim said. "Part of the overall agreement calls for $130 million in community development loans and investments. The money will build affordable hous ing, benefit working families, and restore neighborhoods."

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, New Jersey Citizen Action director, said, "Both TD Bankorth and Commerce have been leaders in innovative ways to provide loans, products and direct services to those who most desperately need assistance in the state."

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