The YMI’s rescheduled Town Hall Forum, “Communities of Color” will focus on exclusionary housing and the Extra-Territorial Jurisdictions (ETJs)—unbounded lands and communities not included in towns, municipalities, etc.—that exist throughout North Carolina. The Town Hall-style forum will draw on “The Inclusion Project,” a report by UNC Chapel Hill’s Civil Rights Center, which offers a statewide perspective of areas where ETJs exist, where many residents are also considered “unbanked” or “underbanked”—lacking access to credit and other banking services.
Panelists for the forum are Dr. Dwight Mullen and Dr. Gwendolyn Whitfield of UNC Asheville’s faculty; Mark Dorosin, Managing Attorney at UNC Chapel Hill’s Civil Rights Center; Gene Bell, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville (HACA); and Rodrick Banks, Vice President of Community Development at Wells Fargo Bank. The forum will be moderated by Dr. Darin Waters, Associate Professor of History at UNC Asheville.
The panel will look closely at ETJs within the City of Asheville and Buncombe County and discuss the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) recently adopted by Asheville Housing Authority. Also on the agenda will be an analysis of correlations between stable, affordable housing and self-empowerment, self-reliance, and better decision-making.
The FDIC 2013 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked reveals that one cause of unbanked or underbanked status is insufficient understanding of, or lack of confidence in, banking products among some resident groups. That population represents a $65-billion-dollar industry for subprime lenders, check cashing outlets, and other businesses that prey on those who do not participate in the economic mainstream.
Research shows that low-income families want to save money, and if offered bank accounts are more likely to make positive gains both in savings and in establishing a positive net worth. The FDIC survey cited a need for financial institutions to take more proactive measures to educate consumers about financial products and services in the expectation that more informed consumers would be better able to participate in the financial mainstream.
As Wells Fargo’s Vice President of Community Development, Rodrick Banks will describe the phenomena of the Unbanked and Unbanked and financial-literacy products that banks commonly offer. He stressed, “Investing in our communities is one of the most important things we can do as a company. At Wells Fargo, we believe that we’re responsible for promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities. If they prosper, so do we.”
Professors Mullen and Whitfield will discuss the social, political, and economic impacts that result from exclusionary housing—and the importance of immediate, comprehensive community action to address the wide-ranging problems that result. Dr. Mullen indicated that “It is important to keep in mind that for much of the past, disparate outcomes by race, sex and economic status were required by formal policies implemented by local, state, federal and private sector institutions. Our discussions today must include strategies to improve the resource base of individual community members but it must also critically assess the continued ongoing momentum of our once legal decisions.”
The legacy of racial segregation across North Carolina is documented by GIS mapping data, which will be presented by Dorosin of the Civil Rights Center. The Housing Authority’s Bell will share the upside of the Section 8 Program and its ability to offer low income residents choices about where to live—and how the program has impacted Asheville.
YMI Board Chair Sharon West says, “Over 50 years ago, the YMI introduced its first tag line, “The Gathering Place.” This name was appropriate in that it reinforced the YMI’s role as a safe place for all to come together to share, to discuss, to take action, to encourage, to affirm. This tagline remains true today. ‘Exclusionary Housing, the Unbanked and Underbanked,’ is a topic of great interest to all and should prove to be the catalyst in leveraging change in the lives of the unbanked and underbanked community.”
The YMI Cultural Center will work with its partners to host financial literacy programs, credit repair, and workshops to help those who are excluded obtain free, no-minimum-balance or low-minimum-balance checking accounts. These programs will complement UNC Asheville’s IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, which offers free tax preparation during tax season to those who make $53,000 or less. The program offers tax assistance at the Pack Library and the YMI Cultural Center.
The Communities of Color Town Hall Forum will be held at the YMI Cultural Center on April 30, 2015 from 6-8:30 p.m. A reception will follow. The event is sponsored by the YMI in partnership with Wells Fargo, Mission Health, UNC Asheville, OnTrack Financial, Self-Help Credit Union and the Asheville Chapter of the Links, Incorporated. For more information, please contact Annie Burton, Board Member of the YMI Cultural Center, Inc. at 828.620.6502