POMONA — In an effort to create affordable housing for Pomona's low-income residents, the NAACP and First Interstate Bank hope to start a nonprofit corporation to refurbish abandoned homes.
"We want to work together on solving the problem," said Harold Webb, president of the Pomona Valley branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
Webb and John Popovich, vice president and director of public affairs for First Interstate, hope public officials, local businessmen and residents will help form the corporation to undertake neighborhood revitalization projects.
The bank has provided $30,000 for a study to analyze factors that led to the decay of some Pomona neighborhoods and suggest possible solutions.
The proposal was unveiled Wednesday at a meeting attended by Mayor Donna Smith, representatives of the city housing office, community activists and federal housing officials.
Two representatives of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., a national nonprofit group that has helped 135 cities across the country design neighborhood revitalization programs, presented an overview of Pomona's housing problems.
"I would confirm what the NAACP is saying," said Gary Askerooth, a corporation staff member. "There are little enclaves throughout the city where people are shut out from the prosperity of the community as a whole."
Askerooth said he noticed boarded-up, abandoned houses within a mile of the downtown civic center. Elsewhere in the city, he said, he saw new homes and businesses on well-kept streets just a few hundred yards from garbage-strewn streets where only one or two houses were inhabited.
"It's quite a shock to see this kind of contrast," he said.
But Askerooth said the prognosis for redevelopment is good because most of the abandoned housing is only 15 to 20 years old and will not be difficult to refurbish. In addition, there is plenty of vacant land for new housing, he said.
Cris Mojica-Gomez, another staff member from the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., said the agency will make specific recommendations after the study is completed. However, she said the first steps would probably be to establish a loan program for homeowners and persuade the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to sell at below-market rates the 265 FHA-foreclosed houses it owns in Pomona.
Webb first approached First Interstate in July about seeking a joint solution to the housing problem.
Poor families have had a hard time getting mortgages, and those who succeed often lose their homes in foreclosures because they can't make payments. he said. Among Los Angeles County communities this year, Pomona is second only to Compton in the number of Federal Housing Administration foreclosures.
Webb hoped the bank would provide several million dollars in low-interest loans for mortgages, home improvements and small businesses.
He targeted First Interstate after learning that under the National Reinvestment Act, local groups can challenge bank mergers if they can prove that the bank seeking the merger has failed to support its local community.
At the time, First Interstate was attempting to acquire Allied Bancshares of Texas. A study done for the NAACP found that between 1980 and 1986, First Interstate made no home mortgage loans in three primarily black and Latino census tracts in Pomona. The NAACP lodged a formal protest with the Federal Reserve System.
Series of Meetings
Officials of the bank, the NAACP and the Federal Reserve held a series of meetings to find a mutually agreeable way for the bank to invest in the community.
First Interstate, which has two branches in Pomona, rejected Webb's first proposal, which sought $3 million in loans at below-market rates.
"We do business in 11 western states with hundreds of poor communities," said Popovich. "If one offers loans at below-market rates . . . there's little excuse for not offering them to all . . . and giving one or two homeowners credit in a community that's disintegrating is not going to solve anything, is it?"
Popovich suggested that Webb approach the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. for advice. After speaking with representatives of the corporation, Webb said he became excited at the prospects of public-private partnership. First Interstate agreed to help draw other banks into the project.
After Wednesday's meeting, the mayor also expressed excitement.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," Smith said. "What's exciting is the feeling of public-private partnership. It's like a new day, a new way of doing things."