The Times, Trenton

TD Bank Pledges $676M In Housing Funds

The Times of Trenton — Thursday, July 3, 2008

BY BILL MOONEY

TRENTON — One of New Jersey's largest banks agreed yesterday to invest $676 million over three years throughout the state in housing assistance for low- and moderate-income residents.

TD Commerce Bank signed an agreement with two state agencies as part of the federal Community Reinvestment Act to provide the funds in various forms, including below market-rate mortgages, home-improvement loans, low-income housing tax credits, and loans to small- and minority-owned businesses.

The money will be channeled primarily to nonprofit housing and community development agencies, with an emphasis on family-oriented and urban-based projects, according to bank and state officials.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, a state watchdog agency that also was a party to the three-year agreement, said, "This is our stamp of approval. We work with banks to figure out how to serve low- and moderate-income residents. They pledged to invest in the community."

She explained that her agency had a similar relationship with the former Cherry Hill-based Commerce Bank for 20 years. Canadian-based TD Bank is acquiring Commerce in an $8.5 billion deal, and this new agreement represents an increased financial commitment from the bank, according to Salowe-Kaye. She said her agency has a total of approximately $18 billion in signed agreements for housing and community development throughout New Jersey with other financial institutions.

Over the past three years, according to Gregg Braca, Metro president of Commerce Bank, there had been a total commitment of approximately $500 million toward housing and community development between Commerce and the former Hudson United Bancorp of Mahwah, another New Jersey bank acquired by TD Bank.

"This is our risk-based capital," Braca said. "This is our investment in nonprofits, this is our investment in people. This is grass-roots visibility. It creates brand loyalty."

Among other things, the commitment includes $160 million in below market-rate mortgages; a minimum of $10 million in home improvement loans; $80 million in loans and $50 million in investments in community development financing; $24 million in low-income housing tax credits; $175 million in lending for small and minority businesses; and $1.5 million in grants to nonprofits that provide affordable housing or economic development to low- or moderate-income persons.

Paige Carlson-Heim, managing director of the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey, the other party to the agreement, praised the concern for families in urban settings. She said her organization represents approximately 250 affordable housing organizations in the state. "This is the kind of agreement we need," she said.

Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer talked about the soaring cost of gasoline and also emphasized the urban aspect. "More than ever, people need to live where they work," he said, "and nonprofits are the way to go."

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