Chase’s new ‘community center’ in Oak Cliff targets underserved black and Latin communities

JP Morgan Chase Bank on Wednesday opened a new type of “community center” branch in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood that will attempt to deliver on the company’s $ 30 billion commitment to racial equity.

The community center is JP Morgan Chase’s fourth location in the country and is an augmented version of a traditional branch office staffed with the aim of reaching out to the local community and getting real estate and business loans into the hands of underserved black and Latino residents.

“We’ve done a lot of research over the past two years to determine what the community’s needs and weaknesses are,” said Alice Rodriguez, community impact manager for New York-based JP Morgan Chase. “One thing we recognize is that we need to build trust within our community.”

Chase overhauled an existing branch at 3929 S. Polk St. in Dallas for the community center. From the outside it looks like any other branch, but the bank has given the interior a more ‘intimate’ feel with sofas and a fireplace.

Chase opened his three other community centers in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, then in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Chase’s commitment to advancing social justice began last year when the pandemic highlighted that non-white workers lived with a smaller safety net and more often worked in frontier jobs. line with little security and greater exposure to the virus. Social justice protests have put more emphasis on disparities, especially access to education and capital that have left black and Latin communities behind.

Chase’s announcement came in October as part of a push by large corporations and institutions to tackle racial disparities and income inequality. Chase doesn’t give $ 30 billion in grants but instead says he will put that money into loans for social housing in marginalized neighborhoods, commercial loans in poor areas and more home loans for borrowers in black and Latino neighborhoods.

Chase is the third largest bank in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with around $ 80 billion in deposits, behind only investment bank Charles Schwab and Bank of America.

Associate banker Ramon Ramos (left) assists local resident Jacob Polk at the new Chase community banking center.
Associate banker Ramon Ramos (left) assists local resident Jacob Polk at the new Chase community banking center.(Lynda M. González)

Dallas-Fort Worth has one of the highest rates in the country for residents who do not have a bank account. A 2019 FDIC survey showed that 7.1% of D-FW residents do not have a bank account, compared to a national average of 5.4%. But unlike most places in the country, Dallas-Fort Worth sees its numbers increase year after year.

National, Black, Latin American, and American Indian households are the least likely to have a bank account. These three groups represent more than 45% of all residents of the metropolitan area, according to estimates from the 2019 U.S. Census.

Black and Latin American households face other barriers to banking and obtaining loans. The median net worth of a white household is around $ 188,000, Rodriguez said. The median net worth of a Latin American household is $ 36,000 and $ 24,000 for a black household.

This means that black and Latino households are less likely to be able to use their home equity to secure a business loan or borrow money from parents for a down payment on a mortgage.

“In many white homes, there is someone who helps with finances, and that may not be the case in black and Hispanic homes,” she says.

In addition to the retail bank staff, Chase will have five staff at the community center who will be almost entirely responsible for outreach.

Two of these employees will work on programs to help people get individual loans, including helping them increase their credit scores to qualify for traditional banking products.

The other three employees will be business loan consultants with a focus on small entrepreneurs. The goal is to help people develop business plans and qualify for traditional loans, not target loans at unqualified applicants, Rodriguez said.

“It’s more about focusing on the financial health of the individual and getting them on that path so that they are more eligible for credit,” Rodriguez said.

Allen High School juniors Alex Motion and Sydney Byers pose at the school's Credit Union of Texas SMART Branch.

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