Community Redevelopment?

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Take a tour of the websites for the Center for Responsible Lending and its parent, Self-Help Credit Union Network, and you’ll see a heavy emphasis on the need to expand credit and investment in rural and urban communities that have been underserved by the market.

Sounds like a great idea to us. Expanding access to credit and investment dollars can help economically distressed areas turn themselves around. Everyone deserves access to credit, not just financially sophisticated and successful borrowers. Investment provides jobs, income and the ability to generate wealth. It can provide the critical push to move a community from blight to vibrant economic growth.

So, when the Center for Responsible Lending/Self Help went looking for a flagship office in Washington, DC, they certainly scoped out many of the neighborhoods who are slowly try to jump start their development. Areas like Southwest or Anacostia or even the H or U Street Corridors, right?

You would think that. But, alas, you’d be wrong.

No, Self-Help decided that the best way to help economically distressed communities was to plunk down a cool $23 million for a high-rise office building in the heart of the K-Street Corridor. That’s right, K Street; home to high-end expense account restaurants and thousands of high-priced lobbyists. This is the same place that has been called “Gucci Gulch.” Just to make sure we get this straight, money Self-Help earned from low-income borrowers went to purchase a building in probably one of the least economically distressed communities in North America.

It looks like that bit about investing in distressed communities is something other folks should be doing. Self-Help: Putting the “self” in “self-interest.”

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