Regulating Payday Lenders Out of Our Neighborhoods Like Porn Shops and Liquor Stores

52668645Houston       Payday lenders are by definition predatory no matter how they try to spin the story. Driving in torrential, blinding rains yesterday from Dallas to Houston, I listened to an ad from ACE Cash Express offering “free” loans of up to $1500 for 30-days supposedly without any interest or fees. ACE Cash Express just settled for $10 million with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau for illegal collection practices, which makes it all clearer now. They don’t mind lending, because they know people will have trouble paying, and they browbeat the collection process to make their money of late fees, extra charges, interest past the due date, and any number of other scams.

As payday lending continues to rush into low and moderate income communities to fill the huge gap for small loans since banks have totally retreated from the field in most countries, despite their charter obligations to serve all of the public, their storefronts have become even more ubiquitous than overgrown vacant lots in most of our communities. Interestingly, communities in British Columbia may have found a way to curb some of these companies by managing the zoning and licensing process for payday lenders the same way they do for other public nuisance businesses like the way porn shops and liquor stores are handled in the USA.

Few working families can afford to live in Vancouver anymore, so there’s significant growth in low-and-moderate income, working families’ suburbs like Surrey, Burnaby, and others within commuting distance. Surrey first stumbled into a city bylaw or ordinance that would force any new payday lender to have to open up at a considerable distance from others and from schools as well, as if they were drug pushers, which is a pretty good comparable.

ACORN Canada’s local group in Burnaby is close to moving these payday lending restrictions using fines and zoning some giant steps forward. They have already convinced the Council that the issue has to be seem as a priority. Now after actions and meetings with planners, they have convinced the city to consider a range of alternatives including moratoriums on the issuance of licenses, a bylaw restricting the proximity between each outlet, substantially raising business license costs as well as giving city council discretionary power for approval over each payday lender license application. ACORN leaders have been imaginative, even suggesting that increased licensing fees go to a ‘renter’s bank’ for people who need emergency rent relief, which has also attracted interest. Another BC suburb, Esquimalt, has created a separate definition for ‘money lenders’ that exclude financial services such as credit unions, meaning credit unions would not be affected if they provide small, short term loans to clients, and Burnaby would have to also narrow its definitions.

None of this is a done deal, but there’s a lot of interest and encouragement from folks in and outside of City Hall so the prospects of huge breakthroughs look very, very likely, and perhaps even very soon. Regardless of the “when,” the “if” seems certain now that ACORN has increasingly ramped up its localized attack on payday lending in our communities and is gaining traction in a building consensus that views these rip-off artists as essentially the same as other peddlers who make their money off predatory practices and peoples’ weaknesses. Putting a triple XXX on payday lending locations in our neighborhoods makes sense. The only real difference between the porn palaces and the liquor stores may be that the payday lending folks steal even more money than those outfits from lower income families every time they walk through the door.

***

Please enjoy Arctic Monkeys’ new single, Why’d you Only Call Me When Your High? from Kabf.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail