Community
2:34 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Re-Imagining Payday Lending In San Antonio

  Faith-based organization Together for the City is about to launch a new alternative to payday lending that the group hopes will help financially-strapped families get back on their feet. The one-year-old group also plans to carve out a variety ways to serve the community.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Linda Hardberger asked the group to help Green Spaces Alliance promote and build more community gardens throughout the city.

"I am asking them both to promote activities in the gardens, also maybe adopt a garden or talk abut being a partner with us in some greater way to get more gardens and to be able to continue funding the program," Hardberger said.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg is working with the group on ways to impact the local refugee population.

"This is one of the discussions that I think we aren't having necessarily at a level that we should be because it is having major ramifications for our area, for our schools, and it benefits everyone when they get settled," Nirenberg said. "It helps us to be better neighbors for all our community."

District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal has been working with the group since he authored the state’s strongest ordinance regulating payday lenders.

"Even if we regulate payday lending, that (ordinance) didn't necessarily provide for an alternative. And now there are a couple people -- Accion is one, this is another -- that are coming up with payday lending alternatives and that is sort of covering the other half," Bernal said. "It's very exciting in that way."

Together for the City plans to launch its payday lending alternative in about two months, offering small, low-interest loans and providing volunteers to teach financial education for families.

Charlie Wedge, CFO of First Baptist Church, said the project is the culmination of a year of work.

"Most of us were not even aware of the situation," Wedge said. "We studied it and put together a team to where we imagined -- by the end of this calendar year -- setting up and organizing the payday lending alternative vehicle. And we expect that our model can be replicated across the state of Texas."

Wedge says the group has no agenda. It is a faith-based group formed to cross denominational lines and think of ways to connect with the community.