More Than 600 FCUs Are Now Community Charters

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The 1998 CU Membership Access Act, better known as HR 1151, may have freed up credit unions to pursue select groups for membership, but the most popular method of FOM expansion since its passage has become the community charter.

NCUA approved a new high of 132 conversions to community charters last year, and almost as many community expansions. The previous high was the 112 community expansions approved in 2002. Since the passage of the landmark bill facilitating expansion though multiple group FOMs, almost 600 federal CUs have opted instead to convert to community charters.

NCUA continued to raise the bar on the acceptable size of community charters, approving more than a dozen community charters encompassing one-million or more people, the previous standard, and setting a new standard at more than three-million people. That honor went to SunWest FCU and Arizona FCU, both based in Phoenix, each of which received permission to cover more than 3.2 million residents of Maricopa County, Ariz. At least one federal credit union (Los Angeles Financial FCU) is awaiting word from NCUA on its application to serve all nine-million residents of Los Angeles County in California.

But an even faster growing trend is expansion by adding so-called underserved, or low-income communities, to a field of membership. NCUA said it approved 270 low-income expansions last year representing 25 million people (many of whom were counted more than once).

The figures also show the low-income expansions, something NCUA has been encouraging through its Access Across America program, has become one of the most fertile areas for credit union expansion.

For example, Primeway FCU (formerly Communicators FCU) in Houston, was approved in December to add more than 1.9-million residents of greater Houston, which qualified as a low-income area, to its FOM. Chartway FCU in Virginia Beach, Va., added more than 1.2-million people in greater San Antonio, Texas, and another 300,000 people in Providence R.I., to its FOM through low-income expansions. Paragon FCU of Washington Township, N.J. has added more than one-million people in New Jersey and nearby Pennsylvania to its FOM through low-income additions. TRW Systems FCU in Manhattan, Beach, Calif. has added more than one-million people to its FOM this way last year.

The biggest community charters approved by NCUA in 2003 will allow:

* Mission FCU, San Diego ($1.4 billion) to serve the three-million residents of San Diego County.

* Bethpage FCU, Bethpage, N.Y. ($1.5 billion) to cover the three-million people on Long Island.

Dade County FCU, Miami ($310 million) and Pan-Am Horizons FCU, Homestead, Fla. ($110 million) to serve Miami-Dade County's 2.3 million residents.

* America First FCU, Ogden, Utah ($2.4 billion), Goldenwest FCU, Ogden, and Tooele FCU, Tooele, Utah, to serve 1.6-million people in six counties surrounding Salt Lake City.

* Columbus Metro FCU, Columbus, Ohio ($80 million) to encompass the 1.1-million people in Franklin County (Columbus), Ohio.

* Member 1st FCU, Mechanicsburg, Pa. ($800-million) to cover 1.1-million people in six surrounding counties.

* Mon-Oc FCU, Toms River, N.J. ($150 million) to serve 1.1-million people in Monmouth and Ocean counties, New Jersey.

* University FCU, Birmingham, Ala. ($180 million) covering 1.1-million people in greater Birmingham.

* Park Community FCU, Louisville, Ky. ($230 million) serving 1.1-million people in metropolitan Louisville.

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