SAN FRANCISCO - One of the country's largest thrifts, First Nationwide Bank, has agreed to work with a California advocacy group to help low- income people and minorities get banking services.

The plan calls for First Nationwide to make $14 million in loans for low-income multifamily housing. The $14.7 billion-asset thrift also has agreed to make at least 18% of its single-family loans to people with incomes no greater than 80% of the median income where they live, and to get 6% of its single-family loan applications from blacks.

First Nationwide also will test using nonprofit groups to extend home equity loans to low-income people, and will take steps to help nonprofit groups buy housing that has been foreclosed.

Alan Fisher, executive director of the San Francisco-based California Reinvestment Committee, said the deal is especially important for proponents of community development because First Nationwide, owned by financier Ronald O. Perelman and Texas banker Gerald J. Ford, is likely to grow.

Agreements of this sort are not enforceable by law, he said. But they are important, since banking regulators monitor a banks' compliance with them when evaluating commitments to fair lending and community reinvestment.

The California Reinvestment Committee has signed similar agreements with five other California banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, and First Interstate Bank of California.

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