Clifton Savings Bancorp (CSBK) in New Jersey said Wednesday that it is making a concerted effort to increase its lending in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods so that it can improve its Community Reinvestment Act rating and follow through with its plan to become a 100% stock-owned company.

The $1.1 billion-asset mutual holding company announced a plan to pursue a second-step conversion in late 2010, but postponed it early last year after its then-regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision, gave it a "needs to improve" rating on its CRA examination.

In a news release announcing its most recent quarterly earnings, Clifton said it remains committed to taking the second step and will file the necessary applications with its new regulators, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Reserve Board, once its CRA rating has improved.

"In the past year we have made a very serious effort to lend to low- and moderate-income borrowers and neighborhoods consistent with our safe and sound operations," the company said.

Clifton reported earnings of $1.9 million in the three months that ended March 31, down 21% from the same period last year, as both noninterest income and net interest income declined.

The thrift company also reported a slight uptick in problem loans, though its ratio of nonperforming loans to to total loans remains well below that of its peers.

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